Health Winners & Losers: Merck

Merck slides as UBS lowers its price target.
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Biotech stocks continued to decline, following the broader indices, on Wednesday.

The Nasdaq and Amex biotechnology indices were both down 2%, and the Amex pharmaceutical index was down less substantially, by 1.2% at 283.78.

PDL Biopharma

(PDLI) - Get Report

was one of the very few stocks on the biotech indices that registered a gain. The stock added 48 cents, or 4.7%, to $10.74.

One component of the pharma index,

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, was off by 66 cents, or 1.8%, at $35.73. The stock slipped to $35.43, a new two-year low, earlier in the day. UBS lowered its price target for the pharmaceutical company to $43 from $45.

One of Merck's pharma peers,

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

, said Wednesday it is eliminating 350 jobs, or roughly 2% of its research and development staff, as part of a previously announced restructuring plan to increase productivity. Shares were down 33 cents, or 0.8%, at $41.39.

Elan

(ELN)

said it restarted a midstage trial of its vaccine to treat Alzheimer's disease. The trial, on vaccine ACC-001, was halted in April when one patient was hospitalized with skin lesions that researchers suspected was vasculitis, an inflammation of blood vessels. Elan said, however, that diagnostic results found otherwise, and thus the trial will resume. Shares rose 43 cents, or 1.7%, to $26.35.

More clinical news,

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

unit Centocor and its partner

Schering-Plough

(SGP)

said Wednesday that golimumab, an injectible drug for arthritic pain, met its primary endpoints in three late-stage studies.

The combination of golimumab and methotrexate was more effective than the standard of care alone in patients who'd previously tried the standard of care unsuccessfully, those who were not previously treated with methotrexate, and also patients who were previously treated with drugs in the same class as golimumab. Schering and J&J were both off by 0.6%.

In other health stocks,

Health Management Associates

(HMA)

fell 62 cents, or 8.6%, to $6.57, on concerns that the slowing economy will continue to affect non-urgent care volume. Cowen and Co. analyst Kemp Dolliver also marked concern about quality issues in one of the company's hospitals, Franklin Regional Medical Center, which has until June 22 to file a plan of corrective action.