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Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen
Articles (281) 

Eli Lilly Keeps Piling Up Share Price Gains

Stock up 24% this year after topping big pharma with 28% gain in 2020

Eli Lilly and Co.'s (NYSE:LLY) 28% increase in share price in 2020 was the highest among members of big pharma. According to an Evaluate Pharma report, the gain pushed the company's market value to more than $161 billion. The Lily express shows no signs of slowing down as its stock has gained another 24% since the beginning of the year.

Right behind Eli Lilly in the category were AbbVie Inc.(NYSE:ABBV), up 21%, and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) with a gain of 8%. So far in 2021, AbbVie has lost some ground while J&J shares continue their ascent.

Shareholders of GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) must be envious as the share prices of these three stocks were at the bottom of the big pharma list with losses of 25%, 12% and 10%, respectively. The hard times for the laggards have carried over into this year, as the stocks of all three are down since Jan. 1. Glaxo has been hammered by concerns about cash flow and dividends, on top of a weak research and development strategy.

Among pharma and biotech companies of all sizes, topping the list of gainers was Novavax Inc. (NVAX). The Covid-19 vaccine developer was a dollar stock before the pandemic. The shares were a bargain, to say the least. In all of 2020, Novavax stock soared more than 2,700%. So far this year, it's gained another 164% as the company said its coronavirus shot was nearly 90% effective in a phase 3 test and 85.6% effective against the mutated U.K. strain. It was also 60% effective in preventing Covid-19 resulting from the South Africa variant.

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This chart shows the stock performance of big pharma's best and worst performers in 2020.

South Korea's Shin Poong Pharm. Co. Ltd. (019170.KS), which is working on a malaria drug, saw its shares skyrocket more than 1,600% last year.

Big gainers also included Seres Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:MCRB), up 661%, small-cap CytoDyn Inc. (CYDY), up 439%, and another vaccine maker, Moderna Inc. (MRNA), whose shares gained 434% and have climbed another 63% this year. Looking at all sizes of pharma companies, the biggest losers were Aprea Therapeutics Inc. (APRE), which was down 90%, and 81% decliners Tricida Inc. (TCDA) and NextCure Inc. (NXTC).

Medtech stocks seem to be less volatile. Teladoc Health Inc. (TDOC) shares gained a relatively modest 139% last year, while NovoCure Ltd. (NVCR) popped 105%. Align Technology Inc. (ALGN) shot up 92% and shows no indication of slowing down as its stock is up big this year, trading at more than $600.

Shareholders of medtech fallers can take some consolation in the fact that their investments didn't suffer too badly. The stock price of the biggest loser, Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX), was down only 20% for all of 2020. Right behind were Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BDX) with a 13% decline and Smith & Nephew (SNN) with a 12% decrease.

Disclosure: The author has positions in Eli Lilly, AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers.

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About the author:

Barry Cohen
Barry Cohen has nearly 40 years experience in communications and marketing, the majority in senior positions at large international health care companies, including Abbott Laboratories and Bayer Inc.

He has contributed to a number of financial websites, writing primarily about the stocks of health care companies.

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