December has been a good month for many pharmaceutical stocks, but Alexza Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALXA) in particular has a lot to thank Santa for, with shares up almost 40% as a result of progress on the drugs in its pipeline.

Shares of Alexza first jumped two weeks ago on news that it simply completed enrollment in a phase 2b trial for its lead product, AZ-001, to treat migraine headaches. Trial results for AZ-001 are expected to be announced in the first quarter of next year. If positive, these results will be another important proof of concept demonstration of the company's aerosol technology.

Last week, Alexza reported preliminary phase 1 results in healthy patients for its third product candidate, an aerosolized version of the pain drug fentanyl, appropriately named AZ-003, which showed AZ-003 to have similar pharmaceutical properties to the commonly used intravenously administered version of fentanyl. This is important because Alexza is hoping AZ-003 will offer an alternative treatment to the other forms of fentanyl on the marketplace.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that Alexza's CEO, Thomas King, was also the CEO and on the board of directors of Anesta, which developed the fentanyl lollipop, Actiq, a drug that sells more than $400 million a year, and then sold itself to Cephalon (NASDAQ:CEPH). There's been no word that this is the fate for Alexza in the future, but having past experience with similar drugs should help Alexza move its products through the pipeline.

All four of Alexza's drug candidates are products derived using its Staccato aerosol inhalation technology, which makes it possible to vaporize drugs so that they can be inhaled. Platform technologies that can be applied across multiple pharmaceutical drugs always present great opportunity to investors if they work, and they also offer favorable pharmacoeconomics.

Alexza says that its Staccato vaporization technology may be feasibly used on nearly 200 drugs that it has looked at so far. If it shows promise in these early clinical trials, then there will be many more opportunities to follow for drugs in which delivering an aerosolized version may offer advantages. Investors should pay close attention when Alexza issues those AZ-001 trial results next year.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.