3 Top Dividend Stocks in Cancer Drugs

By Keith SpeightsMarketsFool.com

It seems as if nearly every biotech and pharmaceutical on the planet is hard at work developing new cancer drugs. That's a good thing for cancer patients. And it's good for dividend-seeking investors as well, since many of the companies in the cancer drug space pay nice dividends.

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Three drugmakers in particular offer highly attractive dividends right now: AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). Here's what makes these the top dividend stocks in cancer drugs.

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AbbVie: Dividend, growth, and value

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AbbVie is best known for its top-selling autoimmune-disease drug, Humira. However, the biotech's fastest-growing product is Imbruvica. The drug received U.S. approval in 2013 for treating mantle cell lymphoma and has since gained approval for treating three other blood cancers: chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, and marginal zone lymphoma.

Oncology should be a key growth driver for AbbVie in the future. The company has a couple of other approved cancer drugs with the potential for higher sales -- Empliciti and Venclexta. In addition, AbbVie's pipeline includes promising experimental cancer drugs such as Rova-T and Veliparib.

AbbVie is one of the rare stocks that offer a great dividend, great growth prospects, and great value. Its dividend currently yields 3.89% and ranks as one of the fastest-growing on the market. Wall Street analysts project the company to grow earnings by an average annual rate of more than 14% in the coming years. AbbVie stock trades at only 10 times expected earnings.

AstraZeneca: Turning things around

AstraZeneca continues to face significant headwinds from loss of patent exclusivity for some of its biggest products, particularly Crestor, Nexium, and Seroquel. However, the British drugmaker looks to be on the right track to turn things around, with plenty of help from its new cancer drugs, Tagrisso and Lynparza.

The company's oncology pipeline also includes several potential winners. AstraZeneca stock got a big boost recently from great results from a late-stage clinical study evaluatingImfinzi in treatingnon-small-cell lung cancer. Acalabrutinib could also be a potential blockbuster in treating B-cell malignancy and CLL.

AstraZeneca's dividend yield stands at 5.6%. Its dividend hasn't been growing because of the aforementioned losses of patent exclusivity. However, with that high of a yield, who cares? Despite declining revenue, the company managed to improve its bottom line in 2016 thanks to strategic cost reductions. With this lower overhead and a loaded pipeline, AstraZeneca should be able to return to growth in the future -- and keep those dividends flowing.

Pfizer: Acquisitions and collaborations driving growth

Like AstraZeneca, Pfizer has encountered challenges from loss of patent exclusivity. The big pharmaceutical company has still grown earnings, though, thanks in large part to several acquisitions and collaborations. One of those deals was especially important for Pfizer's oncology portfolio. The acquisition of Medivation last year brought prostate cancer drug Xtandi and promising experimental cancer drugs into Pfizer's lineup.

Pfizer's increasing oncology strength isn't just due to acquisitions, though. The company's collaboration with Merck KGaA gave Pfizer a promising anti-PD-L1 inhibitor, Bavencio. The drug won U.S. approval in March for treating Merkel cell carcinoma and is in late-stage studies for nine other indications. In addition, Pfizer's cancer drug Ibrance could be on track for peak annual sales of between $3 billion and $5 billion.

Investors have a lot to like with Pfizer's dividend, too. The company's 3.98% yield is one of the best in the biopharmaceutical industry. Pfizer's strong cash flow and prospects for earnings growth should allow the company to keep the dividend going strong.

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Keith Speights owns shares of AbbVie and Pfizer. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.