Monday, March 31, 2008

Taking a Hit on Schering-Plough (SGP)

My one "safe stock" in the "safe sector" of healthcare is getting demolished today, down 25%, as its cholesterol drug faces some major questions. I had reduced this exposure a bit to just over 1% of the fund, but 25% is 25%. And this only reinforces my long term view that it is never smart to invest in drug stocks as an FDA approval or disapproval or a good study or bad study can push you up or down 30% completely out of the blue. Essentially riverboat gambling. This is what happens when one leaves their comfort zone - exactly the same issues that happened when I went against better judgement and moved into the "I need some mortgage/housing related stocks since the early cycle Kool Aid is strong". Blah.

I am not adding or reducing at this point - we'll see how things shake out. Schering still has a far better than average pipeline so it should be ok in the long run, but in the long run we'll all be dead. (in no large part from ineffective drugs the used car salesmen of the drug industry sell us at inflated prices)
  • Shares of Merck and Schering-Plough plunged Monday to their lowest levels in years as new clinical data raised questions about their cholesterol drugs. The companies market the cholesterol drug Vytorin through a joint venture, but earlier this year, partial results from a clinical study showed that Vytorin was no more effective at limiting plaque buildup than Merck's Zocor, a drug that is already available in generic form. Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and Zocor.
  • Full results from that trial were released Sunday. Analysts said they saw little positive news and expected sales of Vytorin and Schering-Plough's drug Zetia to keep declining.
  • Schering-Plough shares plunged 26.4 percent to $14.33 in early trading, touching their lowest levels since August 1996.
  • Wall Street expects prescriptions of Vytorin to keep declining in the wake of a recommendation by leading physicians to use of the drug only after initial therapy with older statins, such as Lipitor and Crestor.
  • Lehman Brothers analyst Charles Butler downgraded Schering-Plough shares to "Equal Weight" from "Overweight," on the news, and he cut his price target to $20 per share from $35. He said prescriptions of Vytorin will keep falling, and because Schering-Plough relies heavily on the joint venture, he slashed his profit estimates over the next five years.
Long Schering-Plough in fund; no personal position

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