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After the tax bill went into effect nearly a year ago, the pharmaceutical industry was predicted to have many more funds at its disposal, since huge amounts of offshore cash could be repatriated. But what have drug makers done with the money? Mostly, the cash has been used for share repurchases, debt reduction, and some acquisitions, according to a report from Moody’s Investor Service.

To be specific, the 10 largest drug makers had cash holdings — cash and fixed-income investments — of $155 billion at the end of the third quarter, down from $193 billion at the end of 2017. And much of the cash has been spent on returning money to stockholders, although this was not a surprise, according to Moody’s analyst Michael Levesque.


As examples, Pfizer (PFE) late last year began a $10 billion stock repurchase program, Merck (MRK) recently disclosed a $5 billion accelerated repurchase plan, and Amgen (AMGN) earlier this year added $10 billion to a stock buyback plan. Such moves, of course, are designed to boost confidence among investors, especially those who are impatient for signs of revenue and profit growth.

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