One minute Dow Jones industrial average component Merck (MRK) might be doing battle with fellow drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) over drugs that can ward off cancer.

The next, biotech giants like Amgen (AMGN) and Sanofi (SNY) are tussling in court over the fate of cholesterol-busting drugs. Meanwhile, a company like Gilead Sciences (GILD) might be raked over the coals in Congress for charging $1,000 a day to treat hepatitis.

It’s a brave – and contentious – new world for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. It’s a realm where science is trying to develop landmark medicines that cure cancer, hepatitis and other life-threatening illnesses.

All the while it does a delicate dance with Wall Street and regulators – balancing public health issues with the demands of shareholders. Investors will find it tricky to navigate the sector, as companies can rise and fall at the drop of a hat.

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