Buybacks, bids, downgrades and drama peppered the news, prompting a few spikes in a generally flat health sector Wednesday. Biogen Idec ( BIIB) pledged a $3 billion buyback of up to 57 million shares of its own stock, reducing the share count by 16%. It will buy them for between $47 and $53 a share, depending on how many shares are tendered by shareholders. The Cambridge, Mass., biotech company said the buyback, which started today, will run through June 26. The stock climbed $2.75, or 5.6%, to $51.95. The Amex Biotechnology Index, which includes Biogen, was up 1.39, or 0.2%, to 820.01. Shares of Novacea ( NOVC) were up $5.90, or 73%, by Wednesday afternoon, after having risen more than 100% earlier in the day. The stock soared on the news that the California-based biotech company
struck an agreement with Schering-Plough ( SGP) regarding prostate cancer treatment candidate Asentar. Schering-Plough was down 38 cents, or $1.10, to $32.37. Also up was CytRx Corp ( CYTR), which said that after favorable preclinical results and earlier clinical data, it plans to move into a phase II clinical trial for iroxanadine for diabetic foot ulcers. The Los Angeles-based biopharmaceutical company said subject to clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, the study will commence in the first half of 2008. The stock climbed 22 cents, or 6.3%, to $3.73. Bioenvision ( BIVN) was the center of drama Wednesday after three downgrades and a letter from a key shareholder, SCO Capital, proclaiming Genzyme's ( GENZ) $345 million bid inadequate. Bioenvision shares were up 21 cents, or 3.8%, to $5.80. Genzyme was down 60 cents, or 0.9%, to $61.98.
Mylan Laboratories' ( MYL) saw a less-pronounced increase but got a green light to ship the high-dose version of Eli Lilly's ( LLY) Prozac. A unit of the company, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, received final approval from the FDA to sell a 40-milligram capsule of flouxetine, the active ingredient in the antidepressant Prozac. The company said the 40-mg strength of fluoxetine capsules had sales of roughly $118 million in the U.S. for the 12 months ending March 31. Mylan said it will ship the product immediately. It had prior approval for and is marketing the 10-mg and 20-mg strength of fluoxetine capsules. The Canonsburg, Pa., company, which earlier this month announced the acquisition of the generic-drug business of the German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA, was up 7 cents, or 0.4%, to $19.76. Other stocks fell amid varying news. Alkermes ( ALKS) reported unaudited fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday, pending discussions with the Securities and Exchange Commission over its accounting for its Vivitrol collaboration with Cephalon ( CEPH). For the quarter, the biotechnology company earned $3.5 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with $4.4 million, or 4 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. The Thomson Financial target consensus was 1 cent a share for the quarter. For the year, Alkermes earned $9.4 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with $3.8 million, or 4 cents a share. the year prior. The company expects profit in fiscal 2008 to range from 10 cents to 15 cents a share, while analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect 6 cents. On Wednesday, WR Hambrecht downgraded its rating for the stock from buy to hold. Shares of Alkermes were down 83 cents, or 4.7%, to $16.29.