To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the drug industry are greatly exaggerated.


pharmaceutical industry

still lives, despite the potential for


by a new president and a left-leaning Congress committed to health-care reform. And it's likely to keep growing as Baby Boomers age. Ratings has assigned high grades to

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report



(NVS) - Get Report


Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report





Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

. These grades equate to "buy" recommendations.

Each company's shares are attractively priced at less than 14 times analysts' estimates for 2010 earnings, with Bristol-Myers Squibb recently changing hands at a tempting 9.8 times. They're forecast to increase profits next year, and their cash flow and balance sheets are healthy. Some industry observers expect the "big pharma" players to take advantage of the weak market by acquiring high-growth biotechnology firms.

As investors wait to see how the government shake-up affects major drug makers, they can enjoy dividend yields of 2.6% to 5.7%.

Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.