This article is part of our Leap of Faith series, in which Foolish writers each pick a stock to take a chance on for the long term.

Happy birthday, leaplings! It's been four years since your last official birthday so I figured I'd send my well-wishes. And for those of you of legal drinking age, I raise my glass and wish you a happy sixth birthday.

For the rest of us non-Leap Day babies, we have to remember that there's only a 0.07% chance of being born on Feb. 29. Not only does this make Leap Day babies a rarity, but it completely sets them apart from everyone else.

The stock market is similar in many respects. On any given day, there are roughly 5,700 major U.S. exchange-listed companies you can choose to invest in. Out of those 5,700, only a fraction of them are truly unique and claim a separation from the pack. One such company that I feel can make the claim of being unique and above the rest is generic and branded drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical (Nasdaq: TEVA).

Today, I'm going to show you why I'm taking a leap of faith and betting on Teva Pharmaceutical to outperform in the long run.

A leap in diversity
The biggest concern with large pharmaceutical companies is whether they can survive the dreaded patent cliff. This year is set to be the worst year on record for Big Pharma, with nearly $29 billion worth of branded drugs set to lose patent exclusivity.

Forest Laboratories' (NYSE: FRX) two key drugs, Lexapro for depression and Namenda, which is used to treat Alzheimer's, go off patent in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and currently comprise 77% of Forest's revenue. Even Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) could be singing the blues with Zyprexa and Gemzar already losing their patent exclusivity, and Evista, Cymbalta, and Humalog all set to lose their exclusivity within the next two years. These five drugs accounted for 52% of Lilly's sales in 2011.

Teva, on the other hand, makes a living from producing generic drugs -- lots of generic drugs. In fact, Teva's current drug portfolio consists of approximately 1,450 worldwide drugs with literally thousands of other patents waiting in the wings. Teva shareholders can bask in the relief that, at the end of the day, their company owns a diverse portfolio of drugs, and it has a seemingly endless supply of drugs ready to come off patent.

A leap in the right direction
Here's a sampling of branded drugs Teva launched generics for in 2011:

Branded Name

Launch Date

Annual Branded Sales

Aricept May 2011 $714.9
Femara June 2011 $376.7
Levaquin June 2011 $830.5
Gemzar July 2011 $413.1
Zyprexa October 2011 $3,343.1

Source: Teva Pharmaceutical Annual Report, figures in millions.

In addition to these launched generics, Teva currently has 14 generics awaiting tentative approval. Here are a few of the most notable:

Branded Name

Annual Branded Sales

Aciphex $902
Lyrica $1,789.3
Truvada $1,974.4
Atripla $2,572.4
Lipitor $8,179
Reyataz $949.4

Source: Teva Pharmaceutical Annual Report, figures in millions.

As you can see, there's no shortage of potential sales for Teva. Keep in mind that the sales above represent branded annual sales, and generic sale prices will be considerably lower than the above totals. Still, some of the world's largest drugs are set to come off patent, and Teva is perfectly lined up to take advantage of it.

A leap in patient care
Teva Pharmaceutical is also an unsung hero of both patients and the insurance industry. In a world where the cost of a treatment can sometimes be greater than the value of a house, Teva's aggressive pursuit of generic patents is driving down the cost of drugs and making them more easily accessible and affordable for patients.

For example, branded Lipitor, which is owned by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), has seen co-payments for the drug drop from $25 to $10 in just the past few months. Historically, generic drugs reduce the price on branded drugs by about 90% within the first year. Generics offer the same benefits as branded drugs for just a fraction of the cost. That's what I call a leap forward in patient care and health-care costs.

Look before you leap
Teva isn't the only generic rodeo in town, but it definitely boasts the best value of the group.

Mylan (NYSE: MYL) is Teva's closest competitor and actually is projected to grow at a faster rate than Teva over the next five years (10.8% vs. 8%). But Teva has a considerably larger portfolio of drugs, boasts a lower forward P/E (7.5 vs. 8.8), and pays out a sizable dividend of 2.4% compared to Mylan's dividend of zero!

Teva's dividend growth isn't unparalleled, but it's certainly impressive over the past decade:

Source: Dividata.

Quantum leap
Teva is taking a quantum leap forward in its approach to bringing life-saving drugs to market in that it's one of the few generic producers to have a brand name pipeline as well.

Teva's brand name portfolio contributed $6.5 billion (35%) of Teva's $18.3 billion in total sales in 2011, up from just 30% in 2010. Its blockbuster, Copaxone, is the top-selling treatment for multiple sclerosis and accounted for 19% of the company's revenue.

Teva is attractive because it is responsible for bringing so many generics to market and making medicine more affordable for patients, while also operating its own branded pipeline of leading treatments. With a veritable sea of drugs eventually coming off patent, Teva has years upon years of potential revenue still to come and, as such, makes my perfect long-term buy-and-hold "Leap of Faith" candidate.

Would you take a leap of faith on Teva over the long term? Share your thoughts in the comments section below with your fellow Fools and consider adding Teva Pharmaceutical to your free and personalized watchlist.

Our Rule Breakers team is also known for seeking out small companies that are ready to make a big leap forward. Right now you can find out which company they think is "The Next Rule-Breaking Multibagger," and you can do so for free, but only for a limited time!

See what other stocks are getting our Foolish writers to swing for the fences; click back to the series intro for links to the entire series.