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Thursday's Health Winners & Losers

Health stocks were relatively flat Thursday amid scattered clinical news, analyst actions and earnings.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) was among the winners, climbing nearly 9% after the drugmaker disclosed positive interim data for a small midstage study on an investigational drug for cystic fibrosis.

The company said the results indicated a significant increase in lung function, and it will continue with its phase II trial. Shares added $1.57, or 8.8%, to $19.

Vertex is a component of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was up 5.87, or 0.6%, at 783.68.

Faring far worse on clinical news was small-cap SGX Pharmaceuticals (SGXP). The stock plummeted after the company said it saw dose-limiting toxicity earlier than expected in two early-stage cancer drug studies. Shares fell $2.32, or 58%, to $1.68.

Other stocks were lower after analyst actions. UBS analyst Erik Schneider initiated coverage on Omrix Biopharmaceuticals (OMRI) with a buy rating and a $17 price target, expecting strong product reception. It did little for Omrix shares, however, as the stock edged down 19 cents, or 1.4%, to $13.55.

On Wednesday, Canaccord Adams anlyst Karl Keegan downgraded Elan (ELN) to sell from hold, on economic and patent protection concerns. Shares of the Irish biotech company were down 76 cents, or 3.6%, at $20.54.

In earnings, Noven Pharmaceuticals (NOVN) lost ground after posting weaker-than-anticipated quarterly revenue. The company earned $1 million, or 4 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from $7.1 million, or 29 cents per share, in the 2006 period. Excluding a $3.3 million charge, it earned 14 cents a share, matching Thomson Financial's average analyst estimate.

Revenue climbed to $23.2 million from $17.2 million, falling shy of Wall Street's expectation of $26.9 million in revenue. Noven's shares fell 76 cents, or 6.5%, to $10.66.

Corcept Therapeutics (CORT) moved higher after its fourth-quarter report. The company posted a loss of $4.2 million, or 11 cents a share, widened from $3.9 million, or 17 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Corcept had no revenue in the quarter, down from $73,000 in the 2006 quarter. Shares were trading up 11 cents, or 3.5%, at 3.09 on light volume.

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