Drugmaker shares rise on swine-flu outbreakby Damian J. Troise on Apr. 27, 2009, under Edge, Nation/World
NEW YORK – The swine flu outbreak boosted shares of makers of of flu treatments, vaccines and tests Monday.
Though Wall Street remains concerned that swine flu could put a damper on any global economic recovery, several companies could benefit.
Gilead Sciences Inc., Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and other companies with a stake in flu treatments and detection will likely see revenue boosts if the swine flu outbreak continues to spread, several Wall Street analysts said.
The bug is already suspected in more than 100 deaths in Mexico, with more than 1,400 cases, mostly in Mexico City. It has spread to the U.S., with 40 confirmed cases, and cases are being investigated in Spain and Canada.
The U.S. government declared a health emergency and released 25 percent of Tamiflu and Relenza treatment courses from the national stockpile to make sure health care providers are ready for any escalation in cases.
Tamiflu, which is an oral treatment, was developed by Gilead, which receives royalties from the drug’s maker, Switzerland-based Roche. Tamiflu is sold in Japan through a company mostly owned by Roche, while in India, Cipla makes a generic version.
Gilead shares rose $1.86, or 4.1 percent, to $47.66 in afternoon trading.
Relenza, an inhaled drug, is made by GlaxoSmithKline, which saw U.S.-traded shares rise $2.41, or 8.2 percent, to $31.75 in afternoon trading.
Both drugs are antiviral medications and are most effective when taken soon after the onset of symptoms. The companies have confirmed that the swine flu strain is sensitive to their drugs.
“Assuming the stockpile will be replenished, we estimate this represents up to $388 million worth of Tamiflu sales or $70 million in royalties for Gilead,” Thomas Weisel analyst Ian Somaiya said in a note to investors. “However, if the outbreak escalates into a pandemic we expect further upside driven by retail demand for the drug.”
Lazard Capital Markets analyst Joel Sendek also said Gilead is a likely beneficiary of the swine flu outbreak, with increased sales of Tamiflu.
Meanwhile, Rodman & Renshaw analyst Elemer Piros said Rockville, Md.-based biotech company Novavax Inc. could see a benefit from the outbreak, as its technology is one of the fastest methods for creating a vaccine.
“If the infection escalates and a government body decides to stockpile vaccine, we believe that Novavax is well positioned to capitalize on this opportunity with its recombinant vaccine technology,” Piros said in a note to investors.
Novavax shares nearly doubled in price to $2.84 in afternoon trading.
Elsewhere, shares of Quidel Corp. jumped 68 cents, or 7.2 percent, to $10.22 as the outlook for its flu tests improved.
“While we believe the probability of a near term flu pandemic is low we remind investors that Quidel’s QuickVue rapid flu test can detect the presence of swine flu and may be used in a screening setting to detect and manage flu outbreak,” Caris & Corp. analyst Zarak Khurshid said in a note to investors.
Other stocks posting gains on the swine flu outbreak include Corvallis, Ore.-based AVI Biopharma Inc., which develops treatments for viral infections. The stock rose 16 cents, or 18 percent, to $1.05.
Birmingham, Ala.-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is developing the flu vaccine peramivir, rose $1.56, or 70.8 percent, to $3.77 in afternoon trading.