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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:GIlead, AbbVie, MannKind, Alkermes and Pharmacyclics

CHICAGO, April 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 the GIlead (Nasdaq:GILD-Free Report), AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV-Free Report), MannKind (Nasdaq:MNKD-Free Report), Alkermes (Nasdaq:ALKS-Free Report)andPharmacyclics (Nasdaq:PCYC-Free Report).

Zacks Investment Research, Inc., www.zacks.com

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

Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

Biotech Stock Roundup

The biotech selloff continued last week with NASDAQ Biotechnology declining 4.46% and the NYSE ARCA Biotech Index declining 5.01% at the end of the week. Even though some companies came up with positive developments, overall sentiment remained bearish.

FDA Action Date for Next GIlead (Nasdaq:GILD-Free Report)HCV Drug: Gilead could well have its next hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug approved later this year -- the company, which had filed for FDA approval of its once-daily fixed-dose HCV cocktail treatment -- ledipasvir (NS5A inhibitor) plus Sovaldi (nucleotide analog polymerase inhibitor) – said that the combination has been accept for review.

The FDA will decide on the approval status of this cocktail treatment by Oct 10. Approval would make this combination the first oral treatment for HCV patients with genotype 1 infection to be available in the U.S. The important thing is that patients would not need to take interferon or ribavirin (RBV), which are usually associated with greater side effects.

But competition is not far behind. Earlier this year, AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV-Free Report) had provided data from four additional studies that evaluated its all-oral, interferon-free therapy with/without RBV in the same patient population. AbbVie followed up with impressive data at the recently held International Liver Congress.

AbbVie remains on track to file for its HCV treatment early in the second quarter of 2014 and expects to gain approval this year.

Both treatments look effective with high cure rates. But Gilead's treatment is once daily while AbbVie's will require more frequent dosing. However, eventually pricing will play a role as well in share uptake.

Gilead should also watch out for Merck's combination treatment.

FDA Pushes out Action Date for MannKind's (Nasdaq:MNKD-Free Report) Afrezza: The FDA, which was supposed to deliver a response regarding Afrezza's approval status by Apr 15, has delayed its decision by three months. So MannKind will now have to wait until Jul 15 before a decision of Afrezza is available. MannKind shares, which had surged almost 74% on a positive FDA panel, dropped 8% on the delay.

The delay should not come as a huge surprise – the FDA has a lot of information to sift through before it can arrive at a decision. Although an FDA advisory panel voted in favor of approving the drug, there are some concerns regarding safety. So the FDA will need some time to decide on the label as well as post-marketing requirements.

Alkermes (Nasdaq:ALKS-Free Report)Gains on Impressive Data: Alkermes shares were up on impressive top-line data from a pivotal study on its experimental schizophrenia drug aripiprazole lauroxil. The candidate was also found to be safe and well-tolerated. With the once-monthly injection achieving the primary as well as secondary endpoints in the study, Alkermes is set to file for FDA approval in the third quarter.

The schizophrenia market is pretty crowded given the presence of several oral antipsychotic drugs. However, of late, the treatment landscape is changing with doctors recognizing the advantages of long-acting injectable antipsychotics. This may work in aripiprazole's favor given its once-monthly dosing option (which provides dosing flexibility and enhances current treatment options). But then, it does not have first-mover advantage as other once-monthly dosing options are already available.

Pharmacyclics (Nasdaq:PCYC-Free Report)Seeks Imbruvica Label Expansion: Pharmacyclics has filed a regulatory application in the U.S. for its cancer drug, Imbruvica, based on data from a head-to-head study (in previously treated chronic lymphocytic leukemia -- CLL -- patients) versus Glaxo's Arzerra.

An interim analysis from the study earlier this year showed a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival as well as a statistically significant improvement in overall survival in the Imbruvica arm. Imbruvica, which has multi-billion dollar potential, is already approved for mantle cell lymphoma and CLL.

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

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