A smattering of random news propelled health stocks in both directions Monday, but the sector indices slunk back from Friday's highs. Of the winners, Avanir Pharmaceuticals ( AVNR) bounded 16%, to $2.38, after announcing that it reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration under the special protocol assessment (SPA) on the design of a single confirmatory phase III trial of Zenvia, a treatment for patients with pseudobulbar affect (PBA). Avanir expects the study, which assesses the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of two doses of the treatment for PBA in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis, to begin enrollment by the end of the year. Avanir's boost wasn't enough to kick the Nasdaq biotechnology index out of the red -- it was down 3.19, or 0.4%, to 880.38. Cytomedix ( GTF), meanwhile, rose after submitting a cost-effective analysis that compared its AutoloGel to certain alternative therapies for patients with diabetic foot ulcers to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The company said the results of the study, which was conducted by independent advisory and advocacy firm B&D Consulting, suggested AutoloGel was more effective and less costly than standard of care and other therapies analyzed in the study. Shares popped 67 cents, or 16%, to $4.80. In other business updates, Isis Pharmaceuticals ( ISIS) said it now expects a loss in the mid to high $20 million range, vs. the previously expected loss in the mid to high $40 million range after incorporating the buyout of Symphony GenIsis and the closing of a deal with Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) company Ortho-McNeil, which resulted in a $5 million milestone payment. Shares climbed 60 cents, or 3.8%, to $16.60.
Shire ( SHPGY) said it's selling eight products, including dermatology products Solaraze and Vaniqa, to Almirall for $213 million. The company said the products are no longer part of its core strategy, which is now focused on developing its attention deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment, human genetic therapies, gastrointestinal and renal disease treatments. Shares rose in premarket but fell back 73 cents, or 1%, to $75.99 in regular trading. Among the other losing stocks Monday was NPS Pharmaceuticals ( NPSP), which receded 13.3% on news that investor George Soros cut his stake in the company to 1.8% from around 6.3%. In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Soros Fund Management said it now owns 809,230 shares of NPS. The stock was down 73 cents at $4.77.