The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world economy. Over the past year, millions of people have lost their jobs, making it difficult to make ends meet amid a historic public health crisis. But for eligible U.S. residents, some help is on the way. After months of debating, Congress passed an economic relief bill on Dec. 21, which President Trump signed into law on Dec. 27.

Most U.S. citizens and resident aliens will receive $600 per person (provided their income falls below a defined threshold), and heads of households will also receive $600 per qualifying dependent child.

If you expect a stimulus check or have already received it, and you don't have it earmarked for anything more important (like paying your bills or restocking your emergency fund), it may be worth considering putting that money to work in the stock market.

Here are two stocks worth buying with your $600 stimulus check: Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX). Both stocks have underperformed the broader market over the past 12 months, there's a chance they bounce back and make the most of your $600 in 2021 and beyond. 

BMY Chart

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1. Bristol Myers Squibb

Bristol Myers currently boasts more than a half-dozen blockbuster drugs, defined as medicines that generate $1 billion or more in revenue every year. The best seller of the bunch is multiple myeloma treatment Revlimid, which Bristol Myers got its hands on thanks to its November 2019 acquisition of Celgene, in a cash and stock transaction valued at $74 billion. During the first nine months of 2020, Revlimid generated $8.8 billion in revenue, a 10% year-over-year increase, assuming the Celgene deal had happened on Jan. 1, 2019.

Other notable products include anticoagulant Eliquis, whose revenue for the first nine months came in at about $6.9 billion, 17% growth year over year. In total, Bristol Myers had seven different drugs whose sales generated more than $1 billion during the first three quarters of 2020, with another one that came in just $50 million short of that threshold.

Of these eight medicines, seven increased their sales. Cancer drug Opdivo was the only exception. Revenue from Opdivo decreased by 4% year over year to $5.2 billion during the first three quarters of 2020 due to competitive pressure and lower demand caused by the pandemic.

Sign that says "2021, seeing profit" amid a lot of $100 bill.

Image source: Getty Images.

But investors need not worry about this cancer drug. It is still undergoing over two dozen clinical trials, and it will likely add at least a handful of new indications within a couple of years or so. According to the research firm EvaluatePharma, Opdivo's sales will keep growing at least through 2024.

The list of the top 10 best-selling drugs by then will include Opdivo, Revlimid, and Eliquis, according to EvaluatePharma. Note that Bristol Myers' pipeline has 50 clinical compounds in development and well over 50 ongoing clinical trials.

The company should continue adding to its lineup, which will translate to healthy revenue and earnings growth. Bristol Myers is currently trading at just 8.1 times forward earnings, compared to a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 24.19 for the S&P 500. And the drugmaker has a forward price-to-earnings-growth (PEG) ratio of 0.03 (anything under 1 is considered acceptable).

With a solid lineup, a rich pipeline, and attractive valuation metrics, Bristol Myers is set to recover from its recent woes. I think it's worth adding shares of this pharma stock to your portfolio. 

2. Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

Biotech giant Vertex Pharma recently saw its shares drop by more than 15% in one day. The sell-off was due to the fact that the company decided to discontinue the development of VX-814, a potential treatment for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), which affects the lungs and liver. It is never good news for investors when a drugmaker gives up on a project in which it has invested thousands of dollars, if not millions.

However, the market reaction to Vertex's news may have been a bit overblown. The company is developing another medicine for AATD called VX-864, which it says is "structurally distinct from VX-814." Vertex expects to release clinical data from an ongoing phase 2 clinical trial for VX-864 in the first half of 2021.

And the company has other promising pipeline candidates. Notably, it is developing CTX001, a potential treatment for sickle cell disease (SCD), with CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CRSP). SCD is a rare and potentially deadly blood disorder that affects approximately 100,000 Americans. CTX001 has already shown some promise in clinical trials, and it could become a powerful growth driver for both Vertex and CRISPR.

With that said, the most important reason Vertex Pharma is still worth buying is its dominance in the market for drugs for cystic fibrosis (CF). This rare genetic condition affects some 75,000 people in North America, Europe, and Australia, and Vertex markets the only medicines in the world that treat its underlying causes.

Smiling female pharmacist leaning against a wall inside a pharmacy.

Image source: Getty Images.

The most important medicine in Vertex's arsenal is Trikafta, which was approved in October 2019 and can treat about 90% of CF patients. During its third quarter, ending Sept. 30, Vertex generated $1.5 billion in revenue, 62% higher than the prior-year quarter. Trikafta alone generated $950 million of that amount.

While Vertex's revenue growth will slow down some, analysts expect its top line to continue increasing at about 25.3% per year for the next five years.

Vertex isn't as cheap as Bristol Myers, but it still sports a respectable 19.7 forward P/E and a forward PEG ratio of 0.12. In short, despite a recent setback, the future still looks bright for Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and investing your $600 stimulus check in this stock could be a great move. 

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.