Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN 1.30%) soared more than 32% higher during 2015, and the odds look good that 2016 will be another profitable year for investors. Between its best-selling eye disease medication Eylea winning a handful of label expansions, and its new PCSK9 inhibitor Praluent poised to ramp quickly, Regeneron's revenue and profits are poised to soar. Analysts predict the company's profits will grow by nearly 21% annually over the coming five years. I'm inclined to agree.
Despite my bullishness, I'm willing to admit that with shares trading for 31 times its expected 2016 profits, Regeneron's shares are fetching a premium price. On that basis, I simply think there are better buys out there right now. Below is a list of three stocks I could see outperforming Regeneron over the coming years.
No. 1. Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX 2.88%)
Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been a great investment over the last few years thanks to its dominant position in treating cystic fibrosis, or CF, and the success of Kalydeco, its current best-selling CF drug. In the most recent quarter Kalydeco grew at a strong 31% to $165 million. The good times should continue into 2016, too, thanks to a few recent label expansions for Kalydeco.
However, the real reason to expect big growth out of Vertex over the next few years is the approval of new CF drug Orkambi. This drug just recently become available in both the U.S. and the European Union, but it already enjoys a larger addressable market than Kalydeco, which should allow it to grow at a much faster rate than Kalydeco did during its launch. The recent numbers bear out that thesis: During its first quarter on the market, Orkambi produced total sales of $130 million. That's more than than Kalydeco did in all of 2014.
With Kalydeco poised for growth and Orkambi coming on strong, analysts see Vertex's revenue more than doubling in 2016 to the tune of $2.3 billion. That should allow its bottom line to swing from loses to more than $3 per share of profits. If true, that means shares are currently trading for just under 30 times its full-year estimates, and with an expected five-year growth rate of nearly 30%, Vertex is both cheaper and growing faster than Regeneron.
No. 2: Medivation (MDVN)
Just like Regeneron, cancer-focused Medivation continues to put up strong growth numbers -- the company's sales jumped 30% higher in the most recent quarter. Unlike Regeneron, Medivation hasn't been getting any love from the markets recently. Shares actually declined 5% during 2015.
That performance surprised me since Medivation has been a market darling for years. The market had previously been cheering huge sales growth of Xtandi, which treats metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Last quarter, Medivation's marketing partner Astellas Pharma grew sales of Xtandi 73% in the U.S. and 116% in the rest of the world. While the timing of milestone payments -- which are lumpy from quarter to quarter -- kept its total revenue growth at only 30%, those results blew past expectations. Still, shares waned.
Xtandi has been clinically shown to help patients delay the need to start chemotherapy by an extra 17 months, and it also lengthened patient survival by four months. Since prostate cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, Xtandi appears to still have a long runway of growth ahead of it. That growth could get turbocharged if Xtandi is shown to be useful as a treatment for breast cancer, too.
And yet, despite all of its potential and profitable fast growth, shares are currently trading for less than 22 times the company's expected 2016 profits. If the company is able to come anywhere close to hitting its expected five-year profit growth rate of 66% per year, then today's share price will likely look like a bargain in retrospect.
No. 3. Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC (JAZZ -0.54%)
Jazz Pharmaceuticals is another stock that's putting up good results but is having a hard time to get the market to care. The sleep specialist is expected to grow its sales and profits at double-digit rates yet again, largely on the back of its narcolepsy drug Xyrem, but the market continues to shrug. Shares have been sold off and are now trading for less than 12 times 2016 profit estimates.
That sell-off would be warranted if the company's profits were about to plummet, but I think there are reasons to expect the opposite. Xyrem is currently being used by less than 10% of patients in the U.S. who are believed to have narcolepsy, which hints at there being plenty of room left for the drug to grow. Jazz also has a decent pipeline of drugs in late-stage trials that should help it extend its leadership position in the sleep market and also expand its presence in the hematology and oncology markets.
The FDA is also currently reviewing Jazz's Defitelio for approval. Defitelio was submitted as a potential treatment for severe hepatic veno-occlusive disease in adults and children undergoing hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation therapy. I think the chances are good for a regulatory thumbs-up since it's already approved for sale in Europe, and the FDA has given it submission fast-track designation. We should have an answer by the end of March, with analysts forecasting that the drug could generate peak annual sales of $480 million.
In total, analysts see this company growing its profits by more than 16% annually over the next five years. While that's a bit slower than Regeneron is predicted to do, I think the company's low market valuation more than compensates investors for the slightly slower growth rate.