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Sector Update: Health Care

Healthcare stocks were slightly higher this afternoon with the NYSE Healthcare Sector Index climbing about 0.2% and shares of healthcare companies in the S&P 500 rising about 0.1% as a group.

In company news, Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. ( SLXP ) climbed to a new, all-time high Tuesday after the maker of gastrointestinal medications said Allergan ( AGN ) reportedly approached the company in a bid to fight off a $53 billion hostile takeover by Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX,VRX.TO).

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources said to be familiar with the matter, said it isn't clear where talks between SLXP and AGN stand, although one of the sources told the newspaper a deal was possible within the next month.

SLXP currently is working on an $8.8 billion merger with Italian drugmaker Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SpA. The sources did not speculate whether AGN would try to also acquire Cosmo or just SLXP alone.

SLXP shares were up about 16.5% shortly before the closing bell at $162.13 each, earlier rising to a record high of $156.75 a share. Over the past 12 months, the stock has risen almost 131%, including today's advance.

AGN also was higher, climbing slightly over 4% to $161.95 a share after earlier topping out today at $162.09. VRX was up about 3.6% at $113.70 a share, matching its session high.

In other sector news,

(+) SKH, Agrees to all-stock buyout offer from privately held Genesis HealthCare, creating one of the nation's largest providers of post-acute care services.

(-) ONTY, Merck KGaA recommends ending testing of the company's EMR 63325-009 after the drug candidate failed to meet it primary endpoint of improved overall survival during Phase I/II testing in Japanese patients with Stage III non-small cell lung cancer.

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

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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.

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