It was a spring day back in 1992. My buddy Tim had clambered to the top of an under-construction townhouse - sent by his boss to start sheeting the roof trusses on the four-story structure.
Tim (a pseudonym, since this is a true story) - a fellow muscle-car nut and a guy my best friend, Harry, and I had known since high school - was working as a carpenter. Indeed, he was one of the best you'd find.
Tim's life was about to change - forever.
Before Tim climbed up into the rafters, his boss - the site foreman - had said that all the trusses had been nailed down a day or two before. Once up on top, trying to reposition himself, my buddy temporarily straddled two of the squat lumber triangles.
Those trusses suddenly started to spread.
They weren't nailed down.
Tim grabbed at the closest truss - but lost his handhold when it rolled under his weight.
And he fell.
What actually happened was that he plunged through the rectangular floor openings at each story - openings that would hold the staircases needed to climb from the ground-floor doorway all the way to the top.
My friend remembers getting both his arms, at chest level, onto the edge of one of those openings on the third or second floor - a move that slowed his fall and probably saved his life.
But he still slammed into the ground with a force that, even today, makes my skin crawl to think about.
And he was a denizen of an entirely new world.
A world of doctors, operations, physical therapy...
I'm sharing this story here today for a reason.
A bunch of reasons, actually.
I'm going to tell you about a biotech stock that I like a lot that focuses on the very real problem of chronic pain. It's a company that's looking at this malady in new ways.
But I also want to show you how to find still more stocks like this one - companies that are establishing whole new paradigms in biotechnology, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals. It's a brand-new business - one that I'm jazzed to tell you all about.
Let's get started...
A New Healthcare Sector Emerges
In a study a year or so ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that about 11% of Americans - roughly 50 million people - suffered from debilitating pain.
The pain comes from many sources - accidents, injuries, botched surgeries, limitations in today's medical technologies, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, the effects of aging... the list of causes is long and varied.
My buddy Tim is a prime example. His four-story fall destroyed his lower back, fracturing vertebrae, bursting discs, and crimping nerves. Round after round of surgery followed - including a procedure in which the doctors tried to build a stabilizing "cage" around his spine - but none of them worked.
Tim's legs went numb, and his pain took on a life of its own - becoming a separate affliction that required its own treatment regimen. In recent years, some of the newer medications have made it possible for my friend to enjoy a more normal life. He's restoring cars again, and I see him out and about more than in years past.
Millions of Americans share Tim's plight and suffer from serious pain problems. And that has turned the market for pain medication into a huge business.
According to market researcher VisionGain, the worldwide business for pain drugs is worth about $68 billion right now.
Other studies say it's even bigger.
Transparency Market Research says demand for pain therapeutics will cause global sales to grow from about $60.2 billion in 2015 to $83 billion by 2024.
The market is dominated by Big Pharma players, including Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), and Johnson & Johnson Co. (NYSE: JNJ).
But there are also some smaller specialty players that are positioned to capitalize on this big and growing need for pain-management medications.
And there's one specific, small company that I like in particular: Insys Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: INSY).
Insys, based in Phoenix, is a "commercial stage" specialty pharmaceutical company - with a big focus on pain treatment.
One of its key products is a drug called Subsys, a fentanyl spray aimed chiefly at cancer patients experiencing "breakthrough" pain. The product is designed to be sprayed under the tongue, where it's absorbed through the skin.
As most of you folks know, I covered the biotech sector for a number of years back during my days as a hard-driving business journalist. So I learned how to find and evaluate small, off-the-radar biotech stocks - with lots of upside potential.
What I especially like about Insys is that it's a very forward-thinking company. With Subsys, it has a drug that's relevant in the pain market as it stands today.
And with the drugs it has in the pipeline, it's preparing itself to be relevant in the pain-treatment market still to come.
To show you why, I need to tell you the "backstory" to America's War on Pain.
About the Author
Before he moved into the investment-research business in 2005, William (Bill) Patalon III spent 22 years as an award-winning financial reporter, columnist, and editor. Today he is the Executive Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning at Money Map Press.
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