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Health care stocks were mostly lower this afternoon, with the NYSE Health Care Index slipping more than 0.8% while shares of health care companies in the S&P 500 were down just over 1.1% as a group.
In company news, Apollo Endosurgery ( APEN ) shares lost an even third of its former value on Thursday, with shares of the medical device company plunging 33.3% to a worst-ever $3.77 apiece on Thursday after federal regulators today issued an alert to health care providers following the unexpected deaths of four patients recently fitted with Apollo's Orbera intragastric balloon systems to treat obesity.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning also involves a similar integrated dual-balloon system manufactured by ReShape Medical possibly linked to a fifth patient death.
All of the fatalities occurred within a month or less of the patient's operations, including three deaths happening within three days of placement of the liquid-filled balloons. The agency said it does not yet know the root cause for the fatalities or what role - if any - the devices or their insertion procedures may have played in the adverse events.
The FDA said it also has received reports of two other deaths occuring within the same timeframe, one involving a gastric perforation and the Orbera device and the other involving the ReShape system and an esophageal perforation. It was working with the companies to better understand the potential problems for the balloon systems and to monitor potential complications such as acute pancreatitis and spontaneous over-inflation.
In other sector news,
(+) RKDA, FDA completes safety evaluation of the company's stress-tolerant HB4 soybeans, clearing them for use in human foods and animal feeds. A similiar review is pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
(-) KURA, Launches public offering of 5.3 mln shares of its common stock, with net proceeds slated to fund ongoing research and development as well as for potential acquisitions.