Acorda Therapeutics, The Medicines Co. and Shire Plc Could Be Big Movers in Healthcare Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Good morning, fellow Foolish investors! It's time to check in on the top stories in the health care sector this morning.

Acorda beats earnings estimates
Earnings in the health care sector continue to impress as Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ACOR  ) beat analysts' estimates this morning. Specifically, Acorda reported a fourth quarter earnings per share of $0.32, beating estimates by $0.03. Revenues also increased by a healthy 13.6% year over year due to stronger than expected sales of the company's flagship drug Ampyra.

Looking ahead, Acorda expects sales of Ampyra to grow another 11-13% this year, but costs associated with the company's six ongoing clinical studies will also increase markedly. 

Should you put Acorda on your watch list? I have liked this stock for a long time, but Wall Street's view has clearly differed from mine. Despite steadily growing revenues for Ampyra since its launch and making progress on the clinical trial front, the stock has lagged well behind the health care sector over the last year. Moreover, short sellers still hold close to 9% of outstanding shares. That said, you have to think that growth will eventually win out, and Acorda will see better times in terms of share price appreciation. So, stay tuned!

More bad news for The Medicines Co. 
When biotechs get an experimental drug or therapy rejected, it's fairly normal for analysts to lower their estimates for the company's shares. And that's exactly what's happening to The Medicines Co. (NASDAQ: MDCO  ) today following a negative vote by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, Advisory Committee for the company's experimental drug cangrelor.

Specifically, cangrelor was up for review as an intravenous antiplatelet in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention yesterday, where it received a 7-2 'no' vote. Although the FDA doesn't have to follow the committee's recommendation, it typically does. Final word from the FDA on the drug's fate is expected by April 30.

This morning Jefferies was among the first out of the gate to downgrade the stock, slicing its price target by 15% in the process. Shares are currently down over 10% in premarket trading. 

What's my take? Jefferies obviously believed a good chunk of the company's valuation moving forward was tied to cangrelor's commercial prospects, and by the looks of it, the market appears to agree with this assessment. So, you may want to wait until the smoke clears before trying to pick up shares on the cheap.

Shire rocks earnings estimates 
Irish biopharma Shire plc's (NASDAQ: SHPG  )  strategic decision to focus on drugs for rare diseases a few years back is paying dividends today -- quite literally. The company blew away Non-GAAP earnings per ADS estimates by 23% this morning, with fourth quarter earnings coming in at $2.26 per ADS. Revenue also beat estimates by $50 million.

Earnings came in much higher than expected because of double-digit growth in sales for most of the company's rare disease drugs, with overall annual sales growing by 19%.  Management also gave a rosy outlook for 2014 based on the acquisition of Viropharma and growing demand for the company's core products. Namely, Shire's management expects sales to continue to grow by double-digits this year, allowing them to increase the dividend by 15%.

What's my view? The market appears content to continue to pay a premium for earnings for orphan drugmakers like Shire. And unless there is a major policy change in the U.S. or EU in terms of pricing for these types of drugs, I expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. As such, you might want to keep a close eye on Shire going forward.  

Healthcare stocks have been some of the best performers of late, but this stock could be even better. 
There's a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it's one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


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