An overall blase Tuesday for health stocks was peppered with conservative outlooks, anticipation of a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel and analyst speculation. Merck ( MRK) offered guidance for 2007 that met its prior expectations of between $3.08 and $3.14 a share (before the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement) but is now below the expectations of analyst polled by Thomson Financial, who were looking for $3.15 a share. The company also said 2008 earnings should rise, but its projected range was $3.28 and $3.38 a share, excluding one-time items. The Thomson Financial consensus target for 2008 was $3.39 a share. Shares edged down 38 cents, or 0.7%, to $58.39. Merck is a component of the Amex pharmaceutical index, which down 0.3% at 353.22. Meanwhile, investors were still antsy ahead of a Wednesday FDA advisory panel for Genentech's ( DNA) Avastin with Paclitaxel for breast cancer. The panel will discuss whether a 5.5-month improvement in progression-free survival is sufficient to approve the drug without an improvement in overall survival. On higher-than-average volume, shares were down 72 cents, or 1%, at $72.78. Repros Therapeutics ( RPRX) said Tuesday that, based on its meeting with the FDA, uterine fibroid-induced anemia is a new indication for Proellex, and the company plans to begin pivotal phase III trials during the first quarter of 2008 with a goal of filing a new-drug application (NDA) by the end of 2008. The company said that it will submit an investigational new-drug application (IND) as soon possible to begin two pivotal phase III trials for Proellex as a presurgical treatment for anemia associated with excessive bleeding due to uterine fibroids, or tumors that grow within the wall of the uterus, as soon as possible. The company said it also discussed conducting clinical trials for the indication as a short-course treatment of anemia due to excessive menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids. Shares traded up 43 cents, or 5.3%, to $8.50.
Elsewhere, GPC Biotech ( GPCB) appointed Torsten Hombeck, Ph.D., as its new chief financial officer, effective Jan. 1. He'll replace Mirko Scherer, who's resigning, effective immediately, to pursue other interests. Hombeck has been vice president of finance at GPC Biotech since 2002. Prior to that, he held positions in finance and controlling, at Beiersdorf AG, an international branded consumer products company, among other places. Shares added 17 cents, or 3.5%, to $5.01, on average volume. Banc of America initiated coverage on OSI Pharmaceuticals ( OSIP) with a buy rating and a $65 price target on an optimistic sales outlook for cancer drug Tarceva, which the company co-develops with Genentech ( DNA) and Roche. OSI's shares rose 96 cents, or 2%, to $47.84. Also, Soleil downgraded Auxilium Pharma ( AUXL) to hold from buy. The stock edged down 54 cents, or 2%, to $27.79.