The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Novartis, AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL -September 10, 2018 - Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Novartis NVS , AstraZeneca AZN , Merck MRK , Pfizer PFE and Johnson & Johnson JNJ .

Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Pharma Stock Roundup: NVS' Sandoz Deal, Pipeline Updates & More

A key announcement this week was Novartis' plan to sell parts of its Sandoz unit to India's Aurobindo Pharma for approximately $1 billion. Meanwhile, regulatory and pipeline updates were provided by companies like AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Recap of the Week's Most Important Stories

Novartis to Sell Parts of Sandoz for $1 Billion : Novartis said it will sell selected portions of the Sandoz US portfolio, comprising approximately 300 products, to Aurobindo Pharma USA Inc., a subsidiary of India's Aurobindo Pharma Ltd.

Novartis is selling its Sandoz U.S. generic and branded dermatology business and generic U.S. oral solids portfolio to Aurobindo Pharma for $900 million in cash and an additional $100 million of potential earn-outs. The divesture will allow Sandoz to focus on biosimilars, value-added medicines and complex generics such as injectables, respiratory and ophthalmics. The transaction is expected to close next year. (Read more: Novartis to Sell Sandoz's Dermatology Business to Aurobindo )

AstraZeneca's SLE Study Fails: AstraZeneca's late-stage study, TULIP 1, evaluating its pipeline candidate, anifrolumab for the debilitating autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, failed to meet the primary endpoint. Top-line data from the study failed to show a reduction of disease activity as measured by the SLE Responder Index in patients treated with anifrolumab. (Read more: AstraZeneca's Lupus Drug Misses Primary Endpoint in Study ).

Merck's Gets Priority Review Status for Keytruda sBLA: Merck's supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) looking to expand the label of Keytruda for recurrent locally advanced or metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) - a rare form of skin cancer - was granted priority review by the FDA. A decision is expected on Dec 28.

Merck and Japanese partner Eisai's tyrosine kinase inhibitor, Lenvima was approved by the by Chinese regulatory authorities for the first-line treatment of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. Lenvima was approved for this indication in the United States and EU last month and in Japan in March.

J&J Files for Esketamine in the U.S.: J&J filed a new drug application (NDA) to the FDA for esketamine nasal spray, which has been developed for treatment-resistant depression in adults. J&J expects to file a regulatory application in the EU later this month. (Read more: J&J Submits NDA to the FDA for Depression Drug in Adults )

Breakthrough Therapy Status for Pfizer's and AstraZeneca's Products: The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to Pfizer's pipeline candidate, PF-06651600, which is being developed for alopecia areata, a chronic autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss on the scalp, face, or body.

The same status was also given to AstraZeneca's respiratory candidate, tezepelumab for severe uncontrolled asthma. The designation was based on data from the phase IIb PATHWAY study, which showed that tezepelumab reduced annual asthma exacerbation rate, a measure of deterioration of asthma.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss . This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance  for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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Pfizer Inc. (PFE): Free Stock Analysis Report

Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK): Free Stock Analysis Report

AstraZeneca PLC (AZN): Free Stock Analysis Report

Novartis AG (NVS): Free Stock Analysis Report

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Stocks
Referenced Symbols: PFE , MRK , AZN , NVS , JNJ

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