5 Things to Watch This Week in the Health-Care Sector

Even including Friday's dismal finish, the markets have had a very good year in 2012, and much of that has to do with the outperformance of the health-care sector. Can all facets of the health-care sector continue climbing to new highs? That answer could lie in what happens with regard to these five stories bound to make waves next week.

With absolutely no FDA panel meetings or PDUFA dates on the docket, all eyes are going to be turned toward biotech, pharmaceutical, and health-maintenance plan earnings.

All eyes will assuredly be on Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: REGN  ) , whose lead drug Eylea, used in treating wet age-related macular degeneration, has crushed Wall Street's sales estimates for multiple quarters in a row. Just last month, Regeneron gained an additional indication on Eylea, which can now be used to treat the thickening of the macula of the eye, which can lead to vision impairment. Regeneron has raised its sales forecast for Eylea three times in 2012 , so shareholders would be wise to keep their eyes on this report due out Wednesday.

A lot of focus has been placed on Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD  ) and its hepatitis-C experimental drug GS7977, acquired when it purchased Pharmasset last year. Wall Street would be wise, though, to also take note of the company's Tuesday earnings report and pay attention to sales of the company's HIV drugs. In August, the FDA approved Stribild, a once-a-day pill that combines four medicines into one to treat HIV. The drug could provide an immediate boost to Gilead's stock, assuming its guidance suggests it will be a hit.

On the Big Pharma front, we can expect earnings from both Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Merck is dealing with the loss of its lead asthma drug, Singulair, while Eli Lilly is struggling with the fact that about three-quarters of its revenue stream could be at risk of generic competition by the time 2017 rolls around, according to The New York Times . Both companies are fixtures in many income-seeking retirement portfolios because of the stability of their cash flow, and investors should keep an eye on what they have to say -- especially from Eli Lilly, which is approaching the patent cliff at a much faster pace than its rival Merck.

Finally, keep an eye on Medicaid-based health-care solutions provider Molina Healthcare (NYSE: MOH  ) , which is set to report after the bell on Tuesday. Earlier this week, rival Centene announced that it's terminating its contract with the state of Kentucky because of high medical costs, and Molina may echo similar sentiments when it reports its earnings with regard to its high medical costs related to its dealings with Texas. Investors should pay close attention to how Molina plans to deal with its rising operating costs, as they've recently pushed the health-care plan provider into the red.

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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Gilead Sciences. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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