Which do you value more -- your smartphone or your health? Your favorite streaming TV service or your health? Your car or your health? The answers are obvious. Most people put their health above nearly everything else when push comes to shove.

Healthcare products and services are must-haves, especially those provided by companies that are leaders in their markets. The stocks of these leading companies rank among the best opportunities for long-term investors. Here are three top healthcare stocks to buy right now.

Images of healthcare-related icons displaying above a doctor's palm

Image source; Getty Images.

1. Intuitive Surgical

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't good for Intuitive Surgical's (NASDAQ:ISRG) business. That's evident from the company's 2020 results, which saw revenue slip 3% year over year. The good news, though, is that the pandemic won't last forever. 

I expect Intuitive's growth to regain momentum this year as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available. Procedures that had been delayed will be scheduled. Hospitals will once again buy higher numbers of replacement instruments and accessories for their da Vinci robotic surgical systems.

Don't get me wrong, though: Intuitive Surgical isn't just a coronavirus comeback play. Intuitive's long-term potential is the real reason to buy the stock. Roughly 6 million procedures are performed each year at facilities where the company already has products and market clearances in place. Only around 1.2 million procedures used da Vinci last year. That gives Intuitive a huge growth opportunity in clear sight.

Even better, there are around 20 million soft-tissue procedures performed annually. Intuitive plans to aggressively target these additional procedures through continued technological innovation. I think those efforts will be successful and shares of this robotic surgery pioneer will soar over the next decade.

2. Teladoc Health

What isn't good for one company can be great for another. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a headwind for Intuitive Surgical, it's provided a massive tailwind for Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC). The telehealth services provider's business boomed like never before in 2020.

Some investors might wonder if Teladoc's growth could dwindle as worries about COVID-19 subside. My view is that isn't likely. For one thing, the company's bookings were up 35% last year and include a long list of large companies. Teladoc's average deal size also increased. This bodes well for the company's growth prospects in 2021. 

Teladoc doesn't even have to add new clients to grow, though it will certainly gain more clients. There are nearly as many potential users at the company's existing clients as it has current members. Teladoc also has tremendous opportunities for cross-selling its other products to existing clients, including its Livongo Health platform for helping individuals manage chronic conditions.

The U.S. virtual care market could approach $250 billion after the pandemic ends, according to consulting firm McKinsey. As the leading telehealth services provider, Teladoc is well positioned to capture a sizable chunk of this market. It also has additional opportunities in international markets. COVID-19 served as a catalyst for Teladoc, but the momentum that it started will continue.

3. Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Some biotech stocks are super-risky. Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) isn't one of them. It's highly profitable. It also has clear, strong growth prospects. And it enjoys a monopoly position in its core market.

Vertex's cystic fibrosis (CF) drugs are behind all three of these major pluses. No other company can claim an approved drug to treat the underlying cause of CF. None are even close to bringing a new product to market. That puts Vertex in a commanding position with big profits rolling in.

Despite its market dominance in CF, Vertex still has plenty of room to grow. Its latest CF drug, Trikafta/Kaftrio, won European approval last year. Sales should steadily climb as Vertex secures reimbursement agreements with individual European countries.

The big biotech is also seeking to expand beyond CF. Its pipeline includes phase 2 candidates targeting genetic diseases alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and APOL1-mediated kidney diseases. Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics are evaluating a promising gene-editing treatment for blood disorders beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease in phase 1/2 studies. The company also hopes to advance an experimental gene therapy that holds the potential to effectively cure type 1 diabetes into phase 1 testing this year. 

Vertex faces some risks, of course. It's possible that some of its pipeline candidates won't pan out. However, the biotech doesn't need all of them to be winners to deliver tremendous growth. 



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