Several Democratic presidential candidates have embraced “Medicare for all” as a rallying cry. Others are calling for a variety of healthcare reforms, such as lowering Medicare’s eligibility age from the current 65 or offering a government-run “public option” in health insurance. To healthcare stocks–especially insurance companies, which in theory could see their businesses shrink or even shut down–many of the proposals are terrifying.
Investors also have developed a bad case of angst, says Kiplinger. Many are chucking healthcare stocks. Standard & Poor’s health sector has gained a measly 5.61% this year while the S&P 500 has rocketed ahead 17.35%. (All returns in this article are through May 3 unless otherwise indicated.) But the odds of any radical restructuring of the healthcare system are somewhere between remote and zilch. In fact, healthcare stocks are likely to return to their favored status in the years ahead.
As far as “Medicare for all,” or any other type of single-payer medical insurance plan, it ain’t gonna happen–at least anytime soon. The Affordable Care Act only managed to squeak through Congress because it had the backing of the healthcare industry. It also was to a large degree a proposal of the conservative Heritage Foundation and was first signed into law in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney.
There’s no way conservative Republicans today, however, would back a huge government expansion in medical care. Even in a best-case scenario for Democrats in which they hold the House and take the White House and the Senate in 2020, Republicans likely would hold enough Senate seats to, via filibuster, deny such a sweeping change in the healthcare system as anything remotely like Medicare for all.
What does seem likely, regardless of which party wins in the next elections, are small steps to cut the price of some prescription medications and, perhaps, incremental expansion of the Affordable Care Act to cover some of those who are currently still uninsured. For the healthcare industry, that would mean slightly lower prices, but also more healthcare consumers.
Let’s take a look at last week’s winners and losers as actual reasons for the swings–one way or the other–replace sheer, free-floating panic.
1) Biopharmaceutical company ARCA Biopharma Inc. (Nasdaq:ABIO) led advancing issues last week, soaring a whopping 102% to $10.90 at close Friday. The stock price rocketed following an announcement that the company had a critical research paper published in JACC: Heart Failure, part of the Journal of American College of Cardiology.
Westminster, Co-based ARCA biopharma is currently working on treating cardiovascular diseases with genetically-targeted therapies. Their lead product candidate is GencaroTM (bucindolol hydrochloride), a beta blocker and mild vasodilator that could potentially treat atrial fibrillation in heart failure patients. The paper, “GENETIC-AF: Bucindolol for the Maintenance of Sinus Rhythm in a Genotype-Defined Heart Failure Population,” outlines some of the results of the current Phase 2 trials that ARCA researchers have been conducting. Overall, those results were positive.
Dr. Piccini, the lead author on the paper, notes, “the majority of patients in this trial demonstrated a more favorable response to genetically-targeted bucindolol compared to standard beta-blocker therapy.”
2) Elsewhere, Precipio Inc. (Nasdaq:PRPO) raced 64% to $7.89 on news that the company signed a deal with hospitals in Egypt. Precipio says that this deal has it signing its first major international services contract. This contract is with a healthcare management group that serves multiple hospitals in Cairo, Egypt. San Diego-based Precipio says the cancer diagnostics company will offer its pathology diagnostic services to these hospitals. It will also be providing them with access to its proprietary technologies. Precipio expects, “significant first year revenues” from its ICE-COLD PCR technology and HemeScreen for hematologic molecular testing.
Precipio says that it will be expecting these tests to become available in Egypt by the end of the second quarter. Precipio says its early estimate is that H2-2019 gross margin will improve by 20 points to 25 points. It is also expecting to see cash burn decrease.
3) And thinly traded nano cap Diffusion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq:DFFN) surged 46% to $4.59 ahead of a capital raise. The Charlottesville, VA-based company is facing an offering, stating in March that it had resources to fund operations only into July. The expected new capital will fund the advancement of lead candidate trans sodium crocetinate (TSC) for the treatment of stroke and cancer. A Phase 2 clinical trial, PHAST-TSC, assessing TSC for the treatment of acute stroke in an in-ambulance setting should commence soon. Results should be available in ~two years, subject to sufficient funding.
A Phase 3 study, INTACT, evaluating TSC in patients with inoperable glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) (brain cancer) is ongoing. An earlier Phase 2 trial showed a significant survival benefit in a subset of GBM patients compared to control.
4) But Seres Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq:MCRB) plummeted 31% to $5.04 after announcing a quarterly loss of $0.55 per share versus the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of $0.43. This compares to loss of $0.69 per share a year ago. These figures are adjusted for non-recurring items. This quarterly report represents an earnings surprise of -27.91%. BidAskClub cut shares of Cambridge, MA-based Seres Therapeutics from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research note released on Friday morning, BidAskClub reports. Over the last four quarters, the company has surpassed consensus EPS estimates three times.
Seres Therapeutics is a microbiome therapeutics platform company, developing biological drugs that are designed to treat disease by restoring the function of a dysbiotic microbiome. The company’s advanced program is the SER-109, which is in Phase 3 clinical development for reducing recurrent clostridium difficile infection (CDI).
5) And San Diego-based Heron Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq:HRTX) skidded 30% to $17 after the biotech said the FDA would not approve the new drug application for its pain-management drug HTX-011 in its present form. The regulatory agency did not identify any clinical or safety issues with the drug, but wrote in a complete response letter that it was unable to approve the application due to a need for more non-clinical data and additional information on chemistry, manufacturing and controls, Heron said.
“We plan to request a meeting with the FDA to obtain its agreement on our approach to resolve the issues outlined in the CRL and resubmit the NDA as soon as possible,” said CEO Barry Quart.