Healthcare stocks are one of the best bets out there.
Health spending per person in the U.S. was $12,914 in 2021, which was about $5,000 more than any other developed country. All told, the U.S. spends more than $4 trillion each year on healthcare, making it one of the leading sectors of the world’s biggest economy.
The size of the healthcare market in America, and the sheer amount of money spent makes healthcare stocks an excellent investment. There are many highly successful and profitable healthcare companies for investors to choose from in the medical field.
Here are seven healthcare stocks with huge return potential for long-term investors.
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG)
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Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) is arguably lesser known among healthcare stocks, but the maker of robotic surgical equipment has provided its shareholders with impressive gains.
In the past year, ISRG stock has gained 16% and the share price has nearly doubled in the last five years.
Sales of the company’s proprietary da Vinci surgical system continue to be strong in the U.S. and abroad. The pandemic created a surgical backlog that is now unwinding and driving Intuitive Surgical to exceptional earnings.
The company’s stock recently rose nearly 10% following a first-quarter earnings beat. Intuitive Surgical’s earnings per share climbed 8.8% higher from a year earlier to $1.23. Sales of the da Vinci surgical system rose 12% year-over-year to an installed base of 7,779 platforms globally.
The company continues to drive sales of surgical instruments and accessories that are used with the da Vinci system for various medical procedures. Looking ahead, Intuitive Surgical’s revenue looks well-positioned for continued growth.
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Pharmaceutical distributor McKesson (NYSE:MCK) is another of the healthcare stocks that has an impressive long-term track record.
The company, which employs about 80,000 people and distributes a third of all pharmaceuticals used in North America, has seen its share price rise 15% in the last 12 months and 130% over the past five years.
Its stock has succeeded thanks to steady and continuous growth. In the last 20 years, McKesson has increased its annual revenue by an average of 8.9% per year and has been profitable nearly all that time.
Looking ahead, McKesson recently raised its guidance for 2023, citing operational momentum in its pharmaceutical and medical device distribution business.
Investors no doubt also like that McKesson has raised its quarterly dividend for 15 consecutive years, including a 14.8% increase in 2022. MCK stock dividend currently pays shareholders 54 cents a share each quarter, which equates to a yield of 0.59%.
The stock got a lift last year after the company paid $7.4 billion to settle lawsuits related to the distribution of opioids, putting the case behind it.
Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
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Abbott Laboratories’ (NYSE:ABT) stock has proven itself to be a long-term winner, having gained 85% in the last five years and 200% over the past decade.
ABT stock has also gained 12% in the last six months, fueled by a string of better-than-expected earnings. The medical device company just reported its latest earnings beat that sent its share price up nearly 10% in a single trading session.
The company’s earnings per share beat consensus estimates by four cents.
The latest results from Abbott Labs were especially impressive as the company overcame a big slowdown in sales of its Covid-19 tests. The slowdown in Covid tests was offset by robust sales in Abbott’s medical devices unit, which rose 9% from a year earlier to $3.9 billion.
Abbott’s glucose-monitoring device, Freestyle Libre, remains a bestseller, earning $1.2 billion in Q1 revenue. Given its track record, this healthcare stock has huge return potential for long-term investors.
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Investors looking for a buy-the-dip opportunity should consider biopharmaceutical company Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA).
A winner during the pandemic, MRNA stock has pulled back substantially over the last 18 months. Since peaking at $450 a share in September 2021, Moderna’s share price has fallen 70%.
While disheartening, the drop should be welcome news for long-term investors who are willing to stick with the stock for several years.
Moderna’s pipeline of new medications, which include a vaccine that protects against both Covid-19 and influenza, has analysts excited.
Moderna is also working on several new cancer treatments that employ its MRNA technology. Analysts also agree that with a price-earnings ratio of only 6.73, MRNA stock looks woefully undervalued at current levels.
The consensus view among 15 analysts who cover Moderna is to “buy” the stock. The median price target on the shares is 54% higher than where they currently trade.
UnitedHealth Group (UNH)
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As the largest healthcare company by revenue and the largest insurance company by net premiums in the world, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) has a sizable protective moat around it.
The company specializes in both individual and group health insurance, and it is the world’s seventh biggest company with annual revenues of nearly $300 billion.
Given its size and importance, it should come as no surprise that UNH stock has been a success for long-term investors, having gained 105% in the last five years.
Some analysts even call UNH stock “recession-proof” as businesses and consumers are likely to prioritize paying their health insurance premiums during an economic downturn such as the one we’re currently experiencing.
That helps to explain why UNH stock has consistently outperformed among S&P 500 stocks and beaten many other healthcare securities. The 24 analysts who cover the company have a median price target on the stock that is 22% above current levels.
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Few if any healthcare stocks have a better long-term track record than medical device company, Danaher (NYSE:DHR).
In the past 20 years, DHR stock has outperformed the benchmark S&P 500 Index by more than 1,000%. In the last decade, the stock has gained more than 400%.
Like many other companies on this list, Danaher’s medical and scientific equipment, which is widely used in labs and hospitals, is considered essential.
Danaher has enjoyed strong sales growth for many years, which has driven DHR stock to new heights.
The good news for long-term investors looking to buy low and eventually sell high is that Danaher’s most recent quarter missed Wall Street expectations, sending the company’s shares down to a fresh 52-week low.
Rather than fret, investors should buy Danaher stock while it is on sale, keeping in mind that the company’s Q1 2023 results beat on both the top and bottom lines. It was the forward guidance that spooked traders.
Eli Lilly (LLY)
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Long-term investors looking to cash in on explosive growth should consider a stake in Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY).
The pharmaceutical company has a massive catalyst emerging: a medication that treats obesity. The weight-loss drug, called “Tirzepatide,” is in the final stages of approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some analysts are saying it could end up being the biggest blockbuster prescription drug ever to hit the market.
Eli Lilly is working overtime preparing for the obesity medication’s approval, expanding existing facilities so that it can manufacture and get Tirzepatide to consumers as quickly as possible. While exciting, Tirzepatide isn’t the only thoroughbred in Eli Lilly’s stable. The company has an impressive roster of other blockbuster drugs, including antipsychotic medication Zyprexa and diabetes treatment Trulicity. Consequently, LLY stock has gained 35% in the last 12 months and is up 365% over five years.
On the date of publication, Joel Baglole held a long position in DHR. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Joel Baglole has been a business journalist for 20 years. He spent five years as a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal, and has also written for The Washington Post and Toronto Star newspapers, as well as financial websites such as The Motley Fool and Investopedia.
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