Rob Black's Healthcare Market Roundup

by: Rob Black

Banc of America raised their rating on Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) to "buy'' citing "stronger sales and earnings growth appreciation through 2007.'' Johnson & Johnson, the maker of thousands of products from shampoo to knee replacements, added $1.03 to $59.35.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services revised its ratings outlook on Manor Care (HCR) to negative from stable. The investment-grade rating on Manor Care is based on its position as a major provider of long-term care services to the elderly. However, the rating also incorporates the company's vulnerability to uncertain changes in government reimbursement.

A.G. Edwards maintains their Buy and $60 target on United Health (NYSE:UNH), as they continue to believe the company will deliver 20% EPS growth in 2006 and 20% in 2007. Also, valuation is at historic low levels of 12.9x 2007 EPS versus five year average of 16.9x. Firm says that negative financial press regarding alleged illegal backdating of stock options, threat of greater price competition in the industry, and the threat of accelerating medical cost inflation above projections are unfairly pulling the stock and the sector down.

Jefferies upgraded Cypress Bioscience (CYPB) to Buy and raised their target to $14 from $6. The upgrade is based on increased confidence that ongoing milnacipran P3 trials will yield positive outcomes.

J.P Morgan assumed coverage of Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:TEVA) with an Overweight rating.

Novartis' (NYSE:NVS) drug Glivec, which has dramatically improved survival prospects for some cancer patients, can interfere with bone development. Results found the drug could inhibit bone formation and resorption -- a process known as bone remodelling.

The FDA approved Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) smoking-cessation drug Chantix, also known as varenicline tartrate. The drug helps smokers kick the habit by not only easing withdrawal symptoms but by blocking the pleasurable effects of nicotine in the brain in case a smoker relapses. The agency added that about 44.5 million Americans are cigarette smokers, with 8.6 million of those currently suffering from some smoking-related illness.