What feels like the longest year in history is finally coming to a close. A year that saw the benchmark S&P 500 lose as much as 34% of its value during the first quarter might end with the broad-based index nearly doubling up its historic average annual return. Not too shabby, considering everything that's happened in 2020.

As we look forward to 2021, it should be another banner year for healthcare stocks -- and not just those focused on developing a coronavirus vaccine. In my view, the following three healthcare stocks are screaming buys in the upcoming year.

A stethoscope lying atop a neatly fanned pile of one hundred dollar bills.

Image source: Getty Images.


Let's begin with cancer-drug developer Exelixis (NASDAQ:EXEL), which, for whatever reason, continues to receive little respect on Wall Street.

Exelixis's primary growth driver is its soon-to-be blockbuster cancer treatment Cabometyx. This is a therapy approved in first- and second-line renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). On a combined basis, increased demand in these indications should put Cabometyx north of $1 billion in sales in 2021.

But the reality is that Cabometyx is just getting started. Exelixis is examining its leading drug in around six dozen clinical trials as a monotherapy and combination treatment. One of these studies, CheckMate-9ER, combined Cabometyx with its chief rival in RCC, Bristol Myers Squibb's blockbuster immunotherapy drug OPDIVO. The duo easily met the trial's primary endpoint in first-line RCC, and it's possible the combination could become the standard-of-care. These label-expansion opportunities are what can double Exelixis's revenue over the next four years.

Furthermore, Exelixis made the decision to reignite its internal growth engine. This includes kicking off phase 1 trials for the internally developed XL092, an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets VEGF receptors. Cabometyx should be a cash cow for at least another decade. Everything else is just gravy at this point. 

As one final note, Exelixis's cash position will continue to soar as Cabometyx's sales rise. It won't be hurting for capital to reinvest in research, and it might even be able to go on the hunt for acquisitions. At just over three times expected sales in 2023, Exelixis has the look of a screaming buy.

An up-close view of a flowering cannabis plant in an indoor cultivation farm.

Image source: Getty Images.

Jushi Holdings

If off-the-scale growth is what you're after, small-cap, vertically integrated, multistate operator Jushi Holdings (OTC:JUSHF) might be your stock.

I know what you might be thinking, and no, I'm not suggesting you rush out and buy Jushi because of anything that's going on in Washington, D.C. While President-elect Joe Biden has advocated in favor of decriminalizing and rescheduling marijuana at the federal level, this wouldn't legalize the drug. Rather, state-level legalizations and organic growth provide more than enough kick to rocket Jushi higher.

The differentiating factor for Jushi, relative to other marijuana stocks, is its focus on limited license states, i.e., states that limit the number of retail licenses they'll issue, or those that issue licenses that cover specific jurisdictions or counties. By focusing its attention on the limited-license states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois, Jushi is ensuring that competition is minimal or nonexistent. In other words, the company has a clear path to build up its brand without breaking the bank on marketing costs.

In terms of growth, Jushi sits at or near the top of the list in 2021. Yes, it's growing from a smaller base. But if sales can hit the upper end of the $255 million forecast, it'll effectively triple its revenue from 2020. The opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in Virginia, as well as organic and new store opportunities in Pennsylvania, should be the key sales drivers.

Just in case you need one more reason to pile into Jushi, the company's executives and insiders have put up $45 million of the roughly $250 million in capital that's been raised since the company's inception. When the interests of management and investors are aligned, good things tend to happen.

A person using a tablet to have a virtual discussion with a physician.

Image source: Getty Images.

Teladoc Health

Despite more than doubling in 2020, telehealth giant Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) remains a screaming buy for 2021 and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, Teladoc was one of the biggest winners of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Wanting to keep potentially infected and at-risk patients out of their offices, physicians turned to virtual visits in increasing numbers throughout the year. Teladoc's virtual-visit count grew by more than 200% from the prior-year period in both the second and third quarters.

The thing to understand about telemedicine is that it's a win-win throughout the healthcare industry. It's more convenient for patients, allows physicians to fit more people into their schedule, and is typically billed at a lower rate for health insurers. This means insurers will be promoting telehealth big-time going forward.

Another intriguing driver for Teladoc Health is its recent acquisition of Applied Health Signals company Livongo Health. Livongo collects data on patients with chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes) and, with the aid of artificial intelligence, sends its members tips and nudges to help them lead healthier lives.

Prior to being acquired, Livongo had tallied more than 400,000 diabetes members as subscribers and turned the corner to profitability. Think about that: It only took a little over 1% of the 34.2 million diabetics in the U.S. to generate recurring profits. Look for Livongo to continue to build its member base in diabetes as well as expand to new indications, such as hypertension and weight management.

In the years to come, Teladoc should be one of the fastest-growing, large-cap healthcare stocks.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.