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Big Pharma Stocks: Year in Review

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I wasn't, well, high on drug companies entering 2013. But I did make some quite good calls for stocks to buy, if I do say so myself.

I had to block out quite a bit of noise and investor angst to make those calls, and it was worth it. Think of, say, AbbVie (ABBV) and Pfizer (PFE), which have posted gains of 61% and 24%, respectively.

Now, I also had some regrettable calls. While I've always liked Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), I've pleaded for more diversification in the business. The company was being carried buy its drugs business, while producing weak organic growth in areas like medical devices. I argued that J&J weakened its position against the likes of Abbott Labs (ABT), which seemed more nimble.

[Read: Greenberg: And the Worst CEO of 2013 Is...?]

The Street saw it another way.

Not only has Johnson & Johnson posted gains of 33%, outperforming giants like Merck (MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), but with J&J's recent $650 million acquisition of privately held Aragon Pharmaceuticals, the company has now positioned itself for an even better 2014. It will look to attack Medivation (MDVN), which has a strong oral medication that rivals J&J's top-selling prostate cancer drug Zytiga.

For other drug companies, there was very little to get excited about.

In what has been a fairly good year for the entire sector, Eli Lilly (LLY - Get Report), which posted gains of just 3%, was a relative disappointment. I say "relative" here because I don't believe that I had read anything positive about the company at the beginning of 2013. In fact, most of the rumblings were about the company's pending "patent cliff," in which Lilly would become too exposed to generics competing with its top-selling drugs.

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