Trying to find winners in a bear market is no easy task. Even some of the best blue-chip investments are struggling this year. The S&P 500 has crumbled 20% thus far, and it could get worse before it gets better.

One place where investors can find some winners is in the healthcare industry. Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX -1.46%)Veru (VERU -1.85%), and TransMedics Group (TMDX -0.49%) have been some of the hottest buys this year, and here's a look at why.

1. Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is up 34% this year, and it has been a top stock for good reason; it has plenty of growth potential, and it's generating fantastic results right now. It's a dominant force in the cystic fibrosis business, with top-selling drug Trikafta generating billions in revenue today. And the company doesn't expect its patents on it to expire until 2037. This year, Vertex expects revenue to reach between $8.4 billion and $8.6 billion, for year-over-year growth of approximately 12%.

One reason investors may be particularly bullish about the stock is that later this year, it's expected to file for regulatory approval of the gene-editing therapy exa-cel, which it has been working on with CRISPR Therapeutics. The therapy treats blood disorders and can give Vertex a way to diversify outside of cystic fibrosis. It has the potential to generate billions in revenue. 

Plus, with more than $2.4 billion in free cash flow over the trailing 12 months, Vertex has plenty of resources on hand to help further develop and grow its business. It's an easy investment to justify adding to your portfolio given the opportunities for Vertex to grow in the future.

2. Veru

Shares of pharmaceutical company Veru were lackluster for the first quarter of the year. However, in April the company, which generates revenue from sexual health products, released news that its COVID-19 drug candidate reduced the risk of hospitalized patients dying by 55%, and the stock took off. Last month, it submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant the drug, sabizabulin, Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Investors are likely excited for the potential of this drug, especially given how well pharma giant Pfizer has been doing. Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, generated $1.5 billion in just the first three months of this year. And that's a drug that is to be taken when COVID-19 symptoms first develop. Over the trailing 12 months, Veru has generated $60.5 million in sales. Needless to say, the drug has the potential to significantly boost the company's top line.

The stock has been very volatile and jumped 15% on Monday as a bullish analyst indicated that there was "little doubt" about the EUA getting the green light. Investors should be careful with Veru because while it has been flying high, this is an incredibly volatile stock to own right now. And it now trades at around 20 times its trailing sales -- so it could be due for a decline, especially if the approval does not come in as expected.

3. TransMedics Group

Organ transplantation company TransMedics is another scorching-hot buy. Unlike Veru, however, its 72% increase in value this year has been much more gradual. Investors here are intrigued by the company's long-term potential and rapid growth. TransMedics has developed an organ care system that can transport multiple organs, the only FDA-approved platform capable of doing so. It can help increase the utilization rate of donated organs and improve outcomes.

The company's top line has been skyrocketing, with net sales of $15.9 million for the first three months of 2022 soaring 125% year over year. And the company also bumped up its guidance for the year. TransMedics projects that net revenue could hit $65 million in sales for 2022, growing by as much as 115%.

At a market cap of less than $1 billion, TransMedics is still a fairly small company. It isn't profitable yet, but it generates strong gross margins of more than 70%. As its business grows, that can help put it on a path to profitability. TransMedics' strong outlook for this year (as well as its long-term potential) is likely a key reason growth investors have been able to look past its net losses. Despite its great returns, it may not be too late to invest in TransMedics.