Everybody loves a bargain. And in the current bear market, there are plenty of stocks to buy at a discount.

We asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify dirt-cheap stocks to buy sooner rather than later. Here's why they chose Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY -0.58%), Viatris (VTRS 0.32%), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX -0.29%).

Still looks attractively valued 

Prosper Junior Bakiny (Bristol Myers Squibb): Drugmaker Bristol Myers Squibb is among the select group of companies that are outperforming the market this year. The company's shares are up by 13% year to date. Bristol Myers' reasonable valuation metrics may have something to do with it. Its forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is just 9.5, compared to a forward P/E of 17.1 for the S&P 500

Bristol Myers Squibb is also ideally positioned to navigate the challenging economic environment successfully. Like other drugmakers, the products the company offers aren't luxuries -- Bristol Myers is particularly known for its portfolio of cancer drugs. Physicians won't stop prescribing these essential medicines because the economy is struggling. 

Also, with authorities hiking interest rates, investors are increasingly putting their money into companies that look reasonably valued and consistently generate solid profits. That describes Bristol Myers Squibb pretty well.

The company does face some obstacles. Most notably, competitors in the U.S. introduced generic versions of the multiple myeloma therapy Revlimid, one of the company's top-selling medicines, this year.

Patent cliffs are par for the course for pharmaceutical companies, but Bristol Myers is handling Revlimid's headwinds pretty well. The company has earned approval for several new medicines this year, including cancer drug Opdualag and plaque psoriasis therapy Sotyktu. Bristol Myers expects between $10 billion and $13 billion in revenue from these and other new products by 2025, more than offsetting the loss of exclusivity of Revlimid and other older drugs.

Bristol Myers Squibb's solid business and reasonable valuation make it an excellent buy. I think the stock is well-positioned to continue beating the market. Interested investors should pull the trigger before the drugmaker's shares jump even higher.

A steal of a deal

David Jagielski (Viatris): For investors looking for a steal of a deal in the markets, you don't need to look much further than Viatris. The generic drugmaker pays a dividend that yields close to 5%, and it has growth opportunities ahead. Plus, the stock trades at an absurdly low valuation.

The average healthcare stock trades at over 15 times its future earnings, which is based on analyst projections for how a company will do in the next 12 months. Viatris trades at a multiple of less than 3 times its expected earnings. It's also trading at a price-to-book multiple of just 0.60.

Investors are likely discounting the business because of its relatively high long-term debt, which can be concerning in a rising interest rate environment. As of the end of June, Viatris' debt totaled $19.2 billion -- nearly as much as the company's total equity of $19.8 billion.

However, Viatris is making an effort to improve its balance sheet. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to sell its biosimilars portfolio for $3.3 billion. Viatris expects the deal to close before the end of the year. That money could go a long way toward trimming down the drugmaker's debt load.

Viatris' products treat serious conditions and illnesses, including diabetes. Top-selling medication Lipitor helps to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Although sales have been declining in recent quarters, the company has been launching new products to bolster its portfolio, estimating that they will generate as much as $600 million in new revenue in 2022.

In the trailing 12 months, Viatris has generated $3 billion in free cash flow. That's enough to cover its quarterly dividend payments while also having funds left over to invest in the business and pay down debt.

Overall, Viatris isn't as risky of a buy as it seems. Given its low valuation, high dividend yield, and new product launches, this is an underrated stock to own. I think it's better to buy shares now before the market realizes what a bargain Viatris really is.

A surprising choice

Keith Speights (Vertex Pharmaceuticals): I'll admit right off the bat that Vertex Pharmaceuticals could be viewed as a surprising choice in a list of dirt-cheap stocks to buy. Its shares trade at over 19 times expected earnings. That's not a valuation most investors would consider to be a bargain. Like Bristol Myers Squibb, Vertex has soared so far this year.

However, I think that Vertex truly is dirt cheap when its growth prospects are taken into account. The biotech stock's price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio is a super-low 0.4. And I don't believe the projected growth baked into that multiple is unrealistic.

Sales of Vertex's cystic fibrosis (CF) drugs should continue to increase for years to come. The company enjoys a monopoly in treating the underlying cause of CF. It only needs to secure additional reimbursement deals and win regulatory approvals for younger ages for its existing products to boost sales.

Vertex's pipeline also features several likely growth drivers. Gene-editing therapy exa-cel will probably be the first of these to reach the market. Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics expect to file for regulatory approvals of the drug in treating sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia over the next few months.

I predict that exa-cel will be approved. I'm also optimistic about Vertex's other late-stage candidates -- nonopioid pain drug VX-548, APOL1-mediated kidney disease therapy inaxaplin, and its newest CF triple-combination candidate. This stock is cheap for investors who buy now, but it might not be for those who wait.