Some companies are obviously great investments -- in hindsight. Yet for every stock out there screaming "buy me," others simply give us a nudge and a nod. How can we tell tomorrow's obviously great investments from the thousands of pretenders?

The stars' walk of fame
On Motley Fool CAPS, these opportunities can be found among our four-star stocks. In CAPS' proprietary ratings system, they rank higher than most of the other 5,300 starred companies, but they're just shy of superstardom. While all the attention might be focused on their five-star peers, we can sift through CAPS to find four-star firms approaching greatness. Here are a handful of four-star firms approaching greatness.

  • A-Power Energy Generation Systems (NASDAQ:APWR)
  • Allos Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ALTH)
  • Novatel Wireless (NASDAQ:NVTL)
  • Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)
  • Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (NYSE:POT)

Some of these names might surprise you. Pfizer, for example, is simply a pharmaceutical giant with a great lineup of drugs. Almost great? Even familiar names can still offer some of the best opportunities. Perhaps we've just forgotten the potential they still hold. However, the 145,000-plus CAPS members chose these companies as less obvious sources for tomorrow's great buys so let's see why they might merit your attention.

In the sight of greatness?
To detractors, Allos Therapeutics is milking a system skewed in its favor. It's treatment for peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) treatment is set to launch in January, but it will cost patients $30,000 a month to get it, even though it was shown to reduce tumors in only 27% of the patients that took it. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) has called the price "unconscionable" but admits it and other insurers will be obligated to pay it because Folotyn is the only treatment for the otherwise rare cancer.

For its part, Allos says the costs are not out of line as it has spent considerable sums of money developing Folotyn. Because the disease is rare and aggressive, the price it is charging puts it in the ballpark of similarly situated drugs. A company needs to be rewarded for its willingness to invest in drugs that have a small market and a great potential for loss in development.

Yet it doesn't take a cynic to see that Allos has a small window of opportunity to cash in on its investment. Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) snapped up privately-held Gloucester Pharmaceuticals, which has a competing treatment in clinical trials. If and when that therapy hits the market, the ability of Allos to charge those astronomical sums evaporates. No doubt that played a large role in the market beating down Allos' shares when the acquisition news hit the wires as a deep-pockets competitor turns up the pressure considerably.

Yet having the playing field to itself at this time does increase investors' interest, as CAPS member NEgaspasser points out.

I feel Allos has a viable drug in Folotyn. If they can pull off marketing the drug and make it available to patients at a price the market will bear I feel they have a chance to impact this niche of the cancer drug market significantly before competitors have time to bring their drugs through FDA trials. I also know of a couple seasoned drug reps who quit jobs with established drug companies to take positions at Allos selling Folotyn.

The Gloucester acquisition also makes Allos Therapeutics a potential target in its own right. While Folotyn for PTCL will hit the market next month, it also has the drug in clinical trials targeting other cancers, which could pique the interest of larger pharmaceuticals.

Got an opinion on the cost of drugs these days? Let us know in the comments box below, otherwise head over to the Allos Therapeutics CAPS page and give us your prescription for its future.

A great opportunity for you
Investor sentiment suggests these four-star investments still seem to be on their way to five-star greatness, but it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made all from a stock's CAPS page.

Sign up today for the completely free service and let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost great companies that interest you.

Ebix is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. China Green Agriculture is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Pfizer and UnitedHealth are Inside Value recommendations, and the Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a gold-plated disclosure policy.