Is There Big Value In Addiction Fighting Pharmas?

by Morgan Smith
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Submitted by Morgan Smith as part of our contributors program.

In the past, addiction has been ultimately seen as a weakness of will or an inability of the addict at some level to exercise self control. Treatment regimens involved a course of psychological or behavioural therapy with little or no pharmaceutical intervention. Very slowly, addiction is now being viewed more as a medical condition that can benefit from treatment with certain drugs.

The drugs currently available for treatment of addiction are mostly used to ease the symptoms of withdrawal from drug dependence. There are other drugs that have been used for other purposes that are now used in treatments for addictions from dependencies such as smoking cessation and alcohol addiction.

There are drugs that exist in prescription form or over the counter which assist in the detoxification and easing of withdrawal in the initial stages of recovery. There are only ongoing maintenance doses of certain medications that reduce the craving for drugs, dispel the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal and allow the recovering addict to function without getting the feeling of being high. There are no existing drug cures or drug treatments solely for the treatment of drug addiction.

Vicodin is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories (ABT) as is a form of methamphetamine used to treat attention deficit disorder, Adderal. These are two of the most over prescribed and over abused prescription drugs in the U.S.. Illegally manufactured methamphetamine has been a growing addiction and treatment problem in the United States for the past 15 years. Purdue Pharmaceuticals along with Abbott Laboratories manufacture and distribute oxycontin.

Methadone has long been used in the ongoing treatment and maintenance of opiate drug users. It is also legitimately used in the treatment of seizure disorders and chronic, severe pain. It is currently manufactured by Roxane Laboratories and by several other generic manufacturers. It was originally manufactured and marketed in the 1940’s in the U.S. by Eli Lilly (LLY). Allergan (AGN) owns the patent for clonidine, used in the treatment of withdrawal from opiates. Suboxzone a new drug used to treat opiate dependency is manufactured and marketed by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals inc., in the US., a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.K. public company, Reckitt Benckiser Group ( RGBPY).

While there are no patented drug therapies for stimulant addictions such as cocaine and methamphetamine, there are drugs that are usually used for controlling seizures such as Topomax by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) that may reduce thoughts that are connected to drug craving. Topomax is also prescribed for treatment of depression and as a migraine medication

Provigil, sold by Cephalon (CEPH) enhances glutamate levels that have been depleted by cocaine exposure. Provigil is also used to treat excessive drowsiness in adults and narcolepsy. Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners (CPRX) has developed vigabatrin for use in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Sanofi (SNY) markets this drug outside the US for treatment of cocaine addiction as Sabril. Vigabatrin is often used to treat epilepsy and seizure disorders.

Pfizer (PFE) makes Vistaril, a drug used in treating symptoms of drug withdrawal from different substances, including cocaine and opiates. Vistaril is also used as an antihistamine. Benadryl, another over the counter drug used in treating symptoms of drug withdrawl is now marketed by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and was previously marketed by Pfizer prior to 2007. Benadryl is more commonly used to treat histamine allergies and is available over the counter.

Antibuse is manufactured by Wyeth Ayersta division of Wyeth Limited (WYETH.NS), blocks the oxidation of alcohol is used in the treatment of alcohol abuse. Abbott manufactures Tranxine, used to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Tranxine is also prescribed for anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant and muscle relaxant uses.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) sells Wellbutrin, as Zyban for smoking cessstion. Pfizer sells varenicline as Chantix for smoking cessation. Both drugs are also used as anti-depressants.

Of all of the companies mentioned here, I will only draw investment comparisons on the larger named companies. Abbott’s shares trade around $64. The shares have a price earnings ratio of 15.59, earnings per share of $4.09 and a dividend yield of 3.10%. The company has total cash of $11.5 billion, total debt of 16.38 billion and a book value of $17.09 per share.

Johnson & Johnson shares trade around $69.00 and have a price earnings ratio of 22.69 and earnings per share are $3.05. The dividend yield is 3.50%. The company has total cash of $16.9 billion and total debt of $17.56 billion. Its book value per share is $21.97.

Pfizer’s shares trade around $24. The price earnings ratio is 18.60 and earnings per share are $1.27. The dividend yield is 3.6%. The company has total cash of $24.34 billion and total debt of $38.5 billion. The book value per share is $10.54.

GlaxoSmithKline ‘s shares trade around $42, have a price earnings ratio of 13.21 and earnings per share of $3.17. The dividend yield is 5.4%. The company has total cash of $5.82 billion and total debt of $28.1 billion and a book value of $4.11.

My favourite of this lot is Pfizer as a growth stock. It has a manageable debt, comparable dividend, a lower share price and a better price to book ratio than Johnson & Johnson or GlaxoSmithKline. I like Johnson & Johnson as a safe haven as it has many over the counter remedies and medications and consumer products that provide the ability for the company to continue funding research into new and different drug therapies for any number of diseases, including addiction. I have the same opinion of Abbott Laboratories. I like GlaxoSmithKline as a company but the stock may have hit a wall at the current prices and it is pricy compared to Pfizer. Both Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline offer drugs that have proven very effective in cessation of smoking and I think that these drugs could provide continued revenue growth for these companies.

The addiction treatment market is expected to have revenues of $34 billion by 2014, a 55% increase of 55% from 2005. Interestingly, in the U.S., 80% is paid for by public funding, the remaining 20% is covered by insurance or private fees. There are more than 11,000 addiction treatment centers in the U.S. Demand reduction, programs and research related to drug abuse treatment, education, rehabilitation and prevention designed to reduce the market demand for drugs had a $10.6 million budget in 2012. The law enforcement budget for the reduction of drug abuse was $15.5 million in 2012.

A study done by UNESCO in 2012 indicates that there are approximately 38.6 million problem drug users with drug dependence and drug use disorders globally. The study also estimates that there were between 99,000 and 253,000 deaths globally as a result of illicit drug use.

The current understanding of addiction has moved toward more neurological and physiological thinking and there are more medication based treatments and more willingness to use them. There has been more research dedicated to the pharmacological treatment of drug addiction and pharmaceutical companies are moving to develop and market medications for this growth area of addiction pharmacotherapy.

Dr. Mark Willenbring, director of the Division of Treatment & Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has said: “There is a much more medical approach emerging, treatment for alcohol dependence at this point is similar in some ways to where treatment for depression was about 30 years ago”.

Every major Pharmaceutical company has medications already in use for other treatment protocols that can now be used to treat addiction. It is a growing market as the medical and addiction treatment community and its professionals see the benefit of the use of medications along with psycho therapy and behavioural therapy. It only makes good fiscal sense that the companies that manufacture the drugs that are the subject of addiction, have a role in creating treatment protocols that treat addiction issues associated with those drugs.

One company, Choose Help, offers information, help and a comprehensive list of treatment options, treatment facilities and online resources for individuals and families facing addiction issues. The site provides a one-on-one care question and answer section that can prove very helpful for those seeking recovery, treatment options and support for addiction issues. The site has a thorough description of all manner of treatment options and does go into a fair amount of detail with respect to treatments that involve medical and pharmacological intervention.

Choosehelp.com is very fair in outlining that while behaviour and cognitive therapy are integral part of dealing with addiction, there are several safe and effective drug therapies that could be very beneficial in conjunction with psychotherapy and counselling. It is a site that has a great deal of information and it deals with the sensitive issues surrounding addiction and treatment in a factual and non judgmental manner.

There are unconventional treatments that are not legal in the United States but boast high success rates that involve the use of hallucinogens such as ibogane and huyauska, two plant derivatives that apparently cure the addict of the craving for drugs after treatment. These treatment methods are explained clearly here.

Pharmaceutical companies that have other drugs used for different treatment protocols which show success in treatment of addiction and withdrawal are not losing anything by marketing these drugs for those purposes. We will have to wait many years for research from these companies to determine if there is a possibility for a vaccine for addiction. As we have learned from certain cancer vaccines that have become available in recent years, wide acceptance is never assured. One thing is certain, if pharmacological treatment and intervention becomes more widely accepted, the treatment industry will provide fertile ground for further growth prospects for all pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

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