A slew of regulatory approvals and a bit of upbeat analysis weren't enough to save the biotech sector from a sluggish Wednesday. Here are a few stocks that made headlines -- if not money.A few FDA approvals to start off the new year: Becton Dickinson's ( BDX) BD Diagnostics segment said on Wednesday that it received approval for its rapid blood test for staph infections. The test identifies staphylococcus aureus (SA) and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Shares rose $2, or 2.4%, to $85.57. Also on Wednesday afternoon, Teva ( TEVA) announced it got approval to market the generic version of Dey's bronchodilator, DuoNeb, an inhaler for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The brand product had annual sales of about $265 million in the U.S. for the twelve months ended Sept. 30, based on IMS sales data. Teva said it will begin shipping the product immediately. Shares were trading up 45 cents, or 0.97%, at 46.93. The stock is a component of the Amex Pharmaceutical index, which was down 2.73, or 0.81%, at 335.79. DepoMed ( DEPO) got approval for its Glumetza, extended release metformin tablets, for patients with type II diabetes. Extended release Glumetza is in 1000 mg tablets, compared to the original Glumetza 500 mg tablets. The company and its commercial supplier, Biovail ( BVF), plan to make the extended release formulation available soon. DepoMed edged up 11 cents, or 3.4%, to $3.37, but then gave it all back. Biovail initially added 21 cents moving up to $13.66, but also turned south with the rest of the market by dropping 5 cents.
Watson Pharmaceuticals ( WPI)got approval for DuoNeb, but it didn't do much for the stock. Shares were down 27 cents, or 0.99%, at $26.87. And Varian Medical Systems ( VAR) received FDA approvals for its RapidArc radiotherapy technology, which the company said makes it possible to deliver image-guided, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) faster and more precisely than is possible with standard radiation therapy. Varian said the two FDA clearances cover the treatment hardware and the RapidArc treatment planning software module in the company's Eclipse treatment planning system. It will begin taking orders for RapidArc immediately. Shares didn't take a massive hike, but they did trade on high volume and at one point tipped into a new 52-week high. After reaching the new high of $53.66, shares settled into a gain of 34 cents, or 0.7%, at $52.50. Elsewhere, Millennium Pharmaceuticals ( MLNM) got a bump from an analyst report. Leerink and Swann analyst Howard Liang upgraded the stock to outperform from market perform based on the results of a MEDACorp survey. He said doctors indicated that it was the lack of FDA approval and phase III data, rather than clinical concerns, that limited the use of multiple myeloma drug Velcade. The earlier FDA approval of Velcade compared to Celgene's ( CELG) Revlimid as a first-line treatment for multiple myeloma in mid-2008 and also reimbursement incentives lead Liang to believe the drug will garner sales above street expectations. Both drugs are expected to see sales growth. Millennium's shares garnered $1.45, or 9.7%, arriving at 16.41 on Wednesday, while Celgene was trading up 95 cents, or 2%, at $47.15.