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Health Stocks in Motion

Shares of AVI BioPharma (AVII) were among the best-performing health-related stocks Friday, rising 12% after the drug developer said a report showed that its proprietary Neugene product was successful in combating the Ebola virus in animals.

The study showed that a combination of Neugene agents protected rodents in both pre- and post-exposure therapeutic regimens, the company said. What's more, a trial showed that 75% of rhesus macaque monkeys were protected from the virus when they received the treatment before lethal exposure to Ebola. "These findings serve as the basis for development of a whole class of gene-specific drugs that can be quickly produced in response to known, emerging or genetically engineered bioterrorism threats," the company said. Shares were trading up 55 cents to $5.17.

HCA (HCA) rose 3% after the hospital operator said fourth-quarter results could be better than Wall Street forecasts. The company expects to report earnings of 72 cents to 76 cents a share on sales of $6.2 billion. Results include a pretax gain of 4 cents a share and a reduction in estimated insurance reserves of 7 cents a share. The forecast also includes costs of 4 cents a share related to facilities affected by the hurricanes. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had projected fourth-quarter earnings of 65 cents a share and sales of $6.1 billion. For all of 2005, HCA estimates earnings of $3.17 to $3.21 a share, with sales of $24.5 billion. Analysts are projecting earnings of $3 a share and sales of $24.4 billion.

For 2006, the company continues to anticipate earnings of $3.25 to $3.45 a share, which includes a host of one-time gains and expenses. Analysts are projecting earnings of $3.25 a share. Shares were trading up $1.45 to $50.64.

Shares of Draxis Health (DRAX) rose 2% after the company's new drug application for diagnostic sodium iodide I-131 capsules received Food and Drug Administration approval. The capsules are used by physicians to evaluate thyroid function prior to administering treatment for stronger therapeutic doses of sodium iodide I-131. The company plans to introduce the new capsules into the U.S. market during the first half of 2006. Shares were trading up 9 cents to $4.42.

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