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Health Stock Winners and Losers: J&J Raises Dividend

Updated from 5:10 p.m. EDT

Health stocks were mixed Thursday on a smattering of news, including an announcement that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) had raised its dividend.

Johnson & Johnson said that because of its performance in 2008 and generally strong financial position, it is raising its quarterly dividend 6.5% to 49 cents from 46 cents. The next quarterly dividend will be payable June 9 to shareholders of record as of May 26.

Johnson & Johnson's shares rose 0.4% to close at $51.40.

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Meanwhile, Pfizer (PFE) shareholders tentatively approved a "say on pay" proposal asking that they receive an advisory vote on executive compensation and a proposal to make it easier to call a special shareholder meeting, according to The Associated Press. Shares rose 1.8% to $13.28.

Merck (MRK) shares rose 1.1% to $23.23 after Cigna Corp. (CI) announced a deal in which its customers can receive increased discounts on Merck's oral antidiabetes medications Januvia and Janumet.

Cigna said it will review available A1C lab values for people taking any oral antidiabetic medications. If these values have improved by the end of the year, the discounts Merck offers on Januvia and Janumet will increase. Cigna also will review claims data for its pharmacy customers who take Januvia or Janumet. If these customers are taking the drugs as prescribed, Cigna said, Merck will increase the discounts it offers Cigna on these medications even more.

In other diabetes drug news, the FDA said it needs more time to review an application from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) and AstraZeneca (AZN) for their diabetes drug Onglyza. Bristol shares rose 1.8% to $20.17, and AstraZeneca shares rose 2% to $34.05.

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