The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Merck, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Allergan, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - February 21, 2017 - 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 Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK - Free Report ), Valeant Pharmaceuticals International ( VRX - Free Report ), Allergan ( AGN - Free Report ), AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - Free Report ) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ - Free Report )

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Pharma Stock Outlook: MRK, VRX, AGN, AZN, JNJ

Although companies like Teva (Read more: Teva Tops on Q4 Earnings, Maintains 2017 Guidance ) and Shire reported fourth quarter results this week, focus remained primarily on Merck's (NYSE: MRK - Free Report ) announcement regarding its Alzheimer's disease candidate.

Recap of the Week's Most Important Stories

Merck's Pipeline Setback in Alzheimer's: Merck suffered a pipeline setback with its investigational Alzheimer's disease treatment, verubecestat, being halted in a phase II/III study. The EPOCH study was stopped after an interim analysis by an external Data Monitoring Committee (eDMC) indicated that the study might fail.

While the EPOCH study has been stopped due to lack of efficacy, another study, APECS, will continue as the eDMC noted that the safety signals observed in the other study were not enough to stop APECS.

Verubecestat is a BACE1 inhibitor. While the EPOCH study was being conducted for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease, the APECS study is for people with prodromal Alzheimer's disease. Results from the APECS study are expected in Feb 2019 (Read more: Merck Halts Late Stage Alzheimer Study; Shares Slip ).

Meanwhile, Merck presented positive data from a pivotal study on its investigational NNRTI for HIV, doravirine. Doravirine met the primary endpoint of the head-to-head study versus once-daily ritonavir-boosted darunavir (Trade name: Prezista) in treatment naïve adults with HIV. Moreover, the doravirine arm showed statistically significant lower levels of fasting low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).

Pfizer Reports Data on Xeljanz from Head-to-Head Study: Pfizer's JAK inhibitor, Xeljanz, failed to show non-inferiority as a monotherapy to Humira plus MTX or Xeljanz plus MTX in a head-to-head study for the treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Xeljanz plus MTX, however, met the primary endpoint in showing non-inferiority versus Humira plus MTX.

AstraZeneca to Get $130M Milestone Payment for Siliq Approval: Valeant (NYSE: VRX - Free Report ) gained FDA approval for Siliq for the treatment of adult patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy and have failed to respond or have lost response to other systemic therapies. With this approval, Valeant will make a $130 million milestone payment to partner AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - Free Report ).

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said that its cancer drug Lynparza showed a statistically-significant improvement in progression-free survival compared to chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer harboring germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

Allergan to Buy ZELTIQ for $2.47B: Allergan (NYSE: AGN - Free Report ) continues with its acquisition spree with the company now agreeing to shell out $2.47 billion for ZELTIQ Aesthetics, Inc. The acquisition, which is expected to be immediately accretive, is expected to close in the second half of the year. With this acquisition, Allergan is looking to strengthen its global medical aesthetics portfolio with the addition of ZELTIQ's flagship CoolSculpting System, a part of the $4 billion body contouring market. ZELTIQ's 2016 net revenues were approximately $354 million with growth potential of 17-20% in 2017 (Read more: Allergan To Acquire ZELTIQ in $2.47 Billion Deal, ZELTIQ Shares Pop 13% ).

J&J Gets Binding Offer for Codman Neurosurgery Biz: Integra LifeSciences has made a binding offer to acquire the Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ - Free Report ) Codman Neurosurgery business for $1.045 billion in cash. The Codman Neurosurgery business comprises a portfolio of devices focused on advanced hydrocephalus, neuro-critical care and operative neurosurgery.

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About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (VRX): Free Stock Analysis Report

Allergan PLC. (AGN): Free Stock Analysis Report

Astrazeneca PLC (AZN): 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.

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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