Lowered Forecasts, New Drug Designations, and Device Recalls: Healthcare Recap

Here’s a look at the current state of the healthcare industry.

Merck (NYSE:MRK): Current Price $41.15

Merck reported fourth-quarter earnings at the beginning of February that showed how deeply the expiration of key patents had cut into the company’s profitability. Merck saw sales slide 5 percent in the three-month period to $11.74 billion, as revenue from its asthma drug Singulair, which lost patent protection last year, fell 67 percent. And if it’s not one problem, it’s another. Shares of the company closed slightly down on Wednesday after Merck cut its first-quarter guidance.

However, the lowered forecast was not prompted by fears of further patent losses. Profit will be reduced by 5 cents per share in the current three-month period due to a devaluation of Venezuela’s currency, the company said in a statement. Excluding one-time charges, profit is expected to come in between 76 cents and 78 cents per share. Having already faced disappointing fourth-quarter results, investors did not seem too shaken by the announcement, even though Wall Street’s consensus estimate is for earnings per share of 86 cents.

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