If you happened to have perfect timing during the worst financial crisis since the great depression and bought shares of Bristol Meyers (BMY - Get Report) you would now be up by 50%, and that is with the stock currently trading near a 52-week high. That is the absolute best you could do. Shares of Lilly (LLY - Get Report), Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK - Get Report) delivered near identical returns.
Had you simply bought the Dow, you would be up by more than that 60%, and in fact if you had simply thrown darts at a board to pick your stocks you would likely have made a greater return. The fact of the matter is that big cap pharma is safe and boring and doesn't go up or down. It is nearly impossible to earn a significant return. As a result, I avoid putting money into big-cap pharma because it is too stable. For the opposite reason, I avoid putting money into biotech stocks. Money losing biotech stocks more resemble a trip to the casino than they do an investment decision.
So what is the best way to play if you want to be invested in the healthcare and pharma space? The answer is small-cap, profitable fast growing drug makers and service providers in the pharma space.Take for example Wuxi Pharmaceuticals (WX - Get Report). The stock is up by nearly 400% from its lows last year, despite the fact that it was always highly profitable as well as having a strong balance sheet and positive cash flow. The stock traded below $4 and now trades above $15. The point is that you can find multi-bagger returns from stocks that have a very safe profile but you have to find them yourself because by the time they are making headlines the bargain will certainly have passed. The big question is now that the worst of the financial crisis seems to be behind us, are there still buying opportunities that can provide upside of several hundred percent? The answer is yes, but they are hard to find.