Health Stocks in Motion

Updated from 2:26 p.m. EDT

Shares of Acusphere ( ACUS) were among the best-performing health care and pharmaceutical stocks Wednesday after the company signed a European marketing and development agreement with Nycomed.

Nycomed, a European company with about $725 million in annual sales, will be responsible for marketing Acusphere's AI-700 ultrasound product in its sales territories. Nycomed will pay Acusphere $70 million in licensing fees, research and development funding, and milestone payments, including $12 million over the first two years of the agreement. An additional $58 million in milestone payments are related to regulatory approvals and certain sales targets. Shares of Acusphere traded up $1.36, or 20.9%, to $7.86.

GeoPharma ( GORX) shares traded actively after the company announced Tuesday that its subsidiary, Breakthrough Engineered Nutrition, launched two flavors of CarbSlim Bites with Walgreen ( WAG). The carb-free candy will be available at more than 40,000 points of distribution by January 2005. The Walgreen partnership adds more than 4,000 stores for GeoPharma to sell its product. Shares of GeoPharma traded down 1 cent, or 0.2%, to $5.06 on almost five times its normal daily volume.

Shares of Genentech ( DNA) traded down 76 cents, or 1.4%, to $53.90 ahead of its second-quarter earnings results. After the bell, the company reported a pro forma profit of 19 cents a share on sales of $1.128 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected it to earn 19 cents a share on sales of $1.06 billion. A year ago, it earned 16 cents a share on sales of $799.7 million.

Pfizer ( PFE) fell modestly after the drugmaker announced that it would offer its medications to 43 million uninsured low-income Americans at a discount beginning next month. Working families making less than $45,000 a year would save an average 37% on Pfizer medicines. As an example of the cost savings, a working father earning $41,000 a year who now pays $79.58 a month for Lipitor would see his monthly cost drop to about $52.71 under the new plan, the company said. Shares of Pfizer traded down 15 cents, or 0.4%, to $33.72.

Shares of Oxford Health Plans ( OHP) rose after shareholders approved the merger agreement between Oxford and UnitedHealth Group ( UNH). Oxford shareholders will receive 0.6357 shares of UnitedHealth and $16.17 a share in cash for each share of Oxford they hold. Shares of Oxford traded up 89 cents, or 1.7%, to $54.19. UnitedHealth Group traded up $1.19, or 2%, to $61.27.

Health care volume movers included Pfizer; Genentech; Amgen ( AMGN), down 14 cents to $53.89; Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), down 42 cents to $54.53; Schering-Plough ( SGP), down 18 cents to $17.62; and Boston Scientific ( BSX), up 3 cents to $42.37.

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