4 Top Health Care Stocks To Watch After Merck’s COVID-19 Pill Breakthrough

4 Top Health Care Stocks To Consider Buying [Or Selling] This Week 

Health care stocks have been some of the hottest stocks to buy in the stock market over the past few years. Well, the global pandemic certainly reminded us how fragile life could be. On Friday, the worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 surpassed the 5 million mark according to a Reuters tally. The virus constantly evolves even as we come up with vaccines and other potential treatment options. In fact, it took over a year for the death toll to reach 2.5 million, but the next 2.5 million deaths were recorded in just under eight months. This is why vaccination by itself is not sufficient and other treatment options will be necessary for the long run.

Hence, the announcement by Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics about their new drug was well received by investors. It appears that the drug will be able to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by around 50% for patients with mild or moderate cases of COVID-19. Overall, additional treatment options would be a huge welcome to our arsenal against the coronavirus. That said, this does not mean that vaccination is no longer important. Vaccines from companies such as Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) and AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) will continue to play a pivotal role as we aim to eradicate the virus. With that in mind, here is a list of the top health care stocks to watch in the stock market today. 

Best Health Care Stocks To Watch This WeekAtea Pharmaceuticals 

Firstly, we will be looking at Atea Pharmaceuticals. The clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company specializes in antiviral therapeutics to improve the lives of patients suffering from life-threatening viral infections. Its purine nucleotide prodrug platform develops treatments for diseases caused by single-stranded ribonucleic acid viral infections. Due to this, Atea would often be on the radar of investors as we go through arguably the worst viral pandemic the world has ever seen. 

If you have been following Atea, you would be aware that its lead product candidate is AT-527. The drug is an orally administered antiviral agent for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. It works by inhibiting viral replication by interfering with viral RNA polymerase. This is a key component in the replication machinery of enveloped positive single-stranded RNA viruses. 

So, ATEA stock has naturally benefitted from the compelling results shown by Merck & Co.’s interim analysis. Investors seem to be optimistic that Atea will be able to replicate the same success with its AT-527. Well, AVIR stock has risen by almost 30% just last week. Do you think this bullish run will continue? If so, would you consider adding AVIR stock to your portfolio?

AVIR stock chartSource: TD Ameritrade TOS

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UnitedHealth Group 

Next up, we have one of the largest health care companies in the world, UnitedHealth. The company generally conducts its operations through two business platforms, UnitedHealthcare and Optum. Given its massive portfolio of health care products and services, UNH stock would often be on the top of many investor’s watchlists. It has risen more than 10% since the start of the year.

Last week, the company introduced its 2022 Medicare Advantage (MA) and prescription drug plans. It will be offering expanded access to plans with differentiated value while maintaining an unparalleled member experience. UnitedHealth is already the leading company in the MA market and has more than 7.3 million people enrolled in its MA plans. This move forward shows us that the company intends to solidify its leading position in a growing MA market. 

Within the announced plan, 90% of eligible consumers will have access to pharmacy benefits with $0 tier 1 retail copays. Also, 98% of members will have stable or improved benefits next year and most members will see stable or reduced MA premiums. In fact, nearly 3 million members will have $0 premiums. Safe to say, investors would likely appreciate companies that have a structured plan ahead while maintaining transparency. All things considered, would you be watching UNH stock? 

UNH stock chartSource: TD Ameritrade TOS

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Pfizer

Another top health care stock many would be familiar with is Pfizer. In detail, it is a global health care company that develops and produces medicines and vaccines for immunology, oncology, cardiology, and neurology. Some investors may have noticed that while many of its peers in the vaccine space suffered setbacks, PFE stock was largely unaffected. 

Pfizer is yet another company that is exploring oral antiviral drugs to combat COVID-19 infections. In fact, the company announced last Monday that it has started a large study testing its investigational oral antiviral drug. The study will include 2,660 healthy adult participants aged 18 and older who live in the same household as symptomatic infected COVID-19 patients. Should this drug be a success, this would be another avenue for the company to maintain its success in the long run. 

On top of that, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has approved the company’s CIBINQO (abrocitinib) for the treatment of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. Regulatory applications for the drug have also been submitted to other countries around the world for review. These include the U.S., Australia, and the European Union. Given these considerations, do you think PFE stock will have more room to run?

PFE stock chartSource: TD Ameritrade TOS

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Gilead Sciences

To sum up the list, we have the biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences. Essentially, the company focuses on advancing medicines to prevent and treat diseases. Its portfolio of products and pipeline investigational drugs includes treatments for HIV, COVID-19, liver diseases, hematology/oncology/cell therapy, and other diseases. As of now, the company’s Veklury (remdesivir) is the only drug that has obtained FDA approval for the treatment of COVID-19 in the U.S. 

Not to mention, the company announced last week that the U.S. FDA has granted approval for Gilead’s subsidiary Kite’s Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel) for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This will be the first and only chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy approved for adults with ALL. This is a big milestone for the company and the treatment for ALL as a whole as there is still a high unmet need for the disease.

Half of the patients will relapse, and the median overall survival is only approximately eight months with current standard-of-care treatment. It is noteworthy that this is Kite’s fourth FDA-approved indication in cell therapy in under four years. This shows us the level of commitment the company has to advance its treatments for patients across many different hematologic malignancies. With that in mind, would you consider investing in GILD stock?

GILD stock chartSource: TD Ameritrade TOS
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