The pharmaceutical industry is made of companies that research, develop, make, and sell drugs and treatments used to treat or eradicate diseases, and vaccinate people. This includes some of the largest and best-known companies in the world, such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE), Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK), and AbbVie Inc. (ABBV). A number of pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, have seen a surge in their sales after winning approval from U.S. and foreign governments for vaccines aimed at preventing the COVID-19 virus.

Over the last 12 months, pharmaceutical stocks, based on the iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF (IHE), have lagged the performance of the overall market. IHE's total return over the period was 19.3% compared to the Russell 1000's total return of 37.1%. These market performance figures and all statistics in the tables below are as of Sept. 10, 2021.

Here are the top 3 pharmaceutical stocks with the best value, the fastest growth, and the most momentum.

Best Value Pharmaceutical Stocks

These are the pharmaceutical stocks with the lowest 12-month trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. Because profits can be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks, a low P/E ratio shows you’re paying less for each dollar of profit generated.

Best Value Pharmaceutical Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing P/E Ratio
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc. (IRWD) 12.20 2.0 3.9
Organon & Co. (OGN) 33.88 8.6 4.1
Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. (COLL) 19.70 0.7 7.2

Source: YCharts

  • Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc.: Ironwood Pharmaceuticals develops and manufactures drugs used to treat gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Organon & Co.: Organon is a global women's healthcare company that develops and produces medicines and other products across a range of areas, including reproductive health, heart disease, dermatology, allergies, and asthma. The company announced in mid-June that it has completed its acquisition of Alydia Health, a commercial-stage medical device company specializing in the prevention of maternal morbidity and mortality caused by postpartum hemorrhage or abnormal postpartum uterine bleeding. Organon first agreed to acquire Alydia Health in March 2021 for $240 million.
  • Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc.: Collegium Pharmaceutical is a pharmaceutical company specializing in pain management. It develops medications to treat acute and chronic pain. The company announced in mid-August that its board of directors authorized the repurchase of up to $100 million of the company's common stock. The timing and amount of share repurchases will be determined by management.

Fastest Growing Pharmaceutical Stocks

These are the top pharmaceutical stocks as ranked by a growth model that scores companies based on a 50/50 weighting of their most recent quarterly YOY percentage revenue growth and their most recent quarterly YOY earnings-per-share (EPS) growth. Both sales and earnings are critical factors in the success of a company. Therefore ranking companies by only one growth metric makes a ranking susceptible to the accounting anomalies of that quarter (such as changes in tax law or restructuring costs) that may make one or the other figure unrepresentative of the business in general. Companies with quarterly EPS or revenue growth of over 2,500% were excluded as outliers.

Fastest Growing Pharmaceutical Stocks
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) EPS Growth (%) Revenue Growth (%)
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc. (IRWD) 12.20 2.0 1,390 16.3
Dynavax Technologies Corp. (DVAX) 17.55 2.0 N/A (see company description) 1,880
BioDelivery Sciences International Inc. (BDSI) 4.28 0.4 800.0 13.3

Source: YCharts

  • Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Dynavax Technologies Corp.: Dynavax Technologies is a biopharmaceutical company specializing in developing immunotherapy treatments. It develops and commercializes novel vaccines and is collaborating with other biopharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines to treat COVID-19. Valneva SE (VLA), a France-based biotech company working on a COVID-19 vaccine using Dynavax's CpG 1018 as an adjuvant, recently received a termination notice from the U.K. regarding Valneva's supply agreement for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Despite the termination, Valneva said that it would continue working on its vaccine candidate. Dynavax said that its current CpG 1018 supply contracts still represent a 2021 revenue opportunity of approximately $300 to $400 million. Because the company's EPS went from negative in the year-ago quarter to positive in the most recent quarter, an EPS growth rate could not be calculated for the table above.
  • BioDelivery Sciences International Inc.: BioDelivery Sciences International is a pharmaceutical company specializing in innovative therapies for patients that have serious and debilitating chronic conditions, including chronic pain and acute migraine. The company recently announced that it completed the acquisition of U.S. and Canadian rights to ELYXYB, the only FDA-approved, ready-to-use oral solution for the acute treatment of migraine in adults. The seller was Doctor Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. (DRREDDY). The total value of the transaction, which was first announced in early August 2021, was $15 million.

Pharmaceutical Stocks with the Most Momentum

These are the pharmaceutical stocks that had the highest total return over the last 12 months.

Pharmaceutical Stocks with the Most Momentum
  Price ($) Market Cap ($M) 12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)
MariMed Inc. (MRMD) 1.00 327.5 521.9
22nd Century Group Inc. (XXII) 3.23 525.6 442.8
Zomedica Corp. (ZOM) 0.60 583.6 440.6
Russell 1000 N/A N/A 37.1
iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF (IHE) N/A N/A 19.3

Source: YCharts

  • MariMed Inc.: MariMed is a cannabis and hemp company. It offers a full range of cannabis products, including branded products for the treatment of specific medical symptoms. The company operates cannabis facilities and dispensaries in multiple states.
  • 22nd Century Group Inc.: 22nd Century Group is a plant biotechnology company. It uses genetic engineering and plant breeding to alter the nicotine content in tobacco plants and cannabinoids in cannabis plants.
  • Zomedica Corp.: Zomedica is a veterinary health company. It is working on developing a point-of-care diagnostic platform based on technology designed to detect pathogens in companion animals.

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