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US: Pharma shares under fire as US stocks fall

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[NW YORK] US stocks fell Wednesday with pharmaceutical shares tumbling as controversy over the sky-high price of Mylan's EpiPen prompted rebukes from the White House and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Mylan sank 5.5 per cent as Clinton and White House spokesman Josh Earnest blasted the drugmaker for raising the price of epinephrine injectors from US$100 to US$500 over five years. The injectors are used to counter life-threatening allergic reactions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.4 per cent to 18,481.48.

The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.5 per cent to 2,175.44, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.8 per cent to 5,217.69.

Mylan shares have lost nearly 11 per cent since the profiteering accusations began on Monday, reviving criticism of the pricing strategies of drugmakers generally.

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On Wednesday, fellow biotech and pharma companies Amgen, Biogen and Celgene all lost at least two per cent, while the Dow members Pfizer and Merck also fell.

Markets were looking ahead to Friday's speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, which could shed light on whether better US economic data boosts the odds for an interest rate hike this year.

Petroleum-linked shares mostly fell as oil prices dropped on a surprise jump in US crude inventories. Anadarko Petroleum lost 3.4 per cent, Halliburton 1.4 per cent and driller Nabors Industries 3.3 per cent.

Apparel retailer Express plummeted 25.5 per cent as second-quarter net income fell by more than 50 per cent to US$10.1 million following an eight per cent decline in comparable sales.

Intuit, which sells TurboTax and other financial management products, fell 3.5 per cent on disappointment over its newest forecast, which included an operating loss of US$65-75 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2017.


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