Biotech Stocks Made Big Progress Toward Preventing Heart Attacks in 2018

Long-awaited results proving two classes of cardiovascular disease drugs can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in 2018 could cause sales to soar for Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN), and Amarin (NASDAQ: AMRN).

In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare, analyst Shannon Jones is joined by Todd Campbell to discuss how investors were rewarded in 2018.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Dec. 12, 2018.

Shannon Jones: On the flip side, top story No. 2, there were some biopharma companies focused in heart health, specifically cholesterol-lowering drugs, that did get a nice dose of some positive news in 2018. That was phenomenal. Most came from compelling study data that we had been waiting for. It's encouraging because now, we're starting to see movement in what is cardiovascular health. Honestly, heart health is so important. Cardiovascular events are the leading cause of death in the United States, so, positive news on that end, Todd.

Todd Campbell: Yeah, 800,000 deaths per year just in the United States from cardiovascular disease. That's despite tens of millions of patients taking their statins as prescribed every day. There's undeniably a need for new treatment options for people with cardiovascular disease, and that has led to the development of different classes of drugs. For example, you had the PCSK9 inhibitors that got launched from Amgen and Regeneron a couple of years ago. Similar to the CAR-T situation, blockbuster expectations prior to launch and anemic or lackluster sales since then. That, however, could be changing because earlier this year, Regeneron and Sanofi are teamed up on their drug, Praluent. They reported cardiovascular outcomes data that shows that, yes, their PCSK9 inhibitor does reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. That came on the heels of data from Amgen's drug Repatha last year that also said that. So, now we have conviction that this class of drugs can reduce the risk of these events. That could lead to, obviously, sales going much higher from here for those drugs.

You also had another class of drugs, Vascepa, which is made by Amarin, and that drug's been on the market for a long time to lower triglyceride levels in people with really, really high triglyceride readings. They came out in September and reported that, yeah, their purified fish oil, which is Vascepa, if you use that, that also can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. So, now you have proof for both of these approaches. I wouldn't be shocked if you saw sales for PCSK9 inhibitors and the Amarin's Vascepa soar in 2019. It'll be really interesting to watch how that plays out.

Jones: Yeah, totally agree. When you consider that PCSK9s and even Vascepa are add-on treatments to statins -- and that's really where they saw a lot of the benefit in the studies that came out this year -- I think you definitely see a huge opportunity moving into 2019. Keep an eye on those stocks.

Shannon Jones has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Todd Campbell owns shares of Amgen. The Motley Fool recommends Amgen. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.