Health stocks generate less enthusiasm among investors than themes like battery metals or tech due to their slow pace, high risk and jargon-filled ASX announcements.

But a review of the share price performance of the ASX’s 150-odd health stocks over the past year shows the sector is doing pretty decently.

In fact it’s out-performing more fancied themes such as lithium and blockchain.

A Stockhead review of 156 health stocks (see table below) shows just under half have made 12-month gains including a few blockbusters such as cancer warrior Invion’s (ASX:IVX) 1700 per cent run.

The biotech was trading at a meagre 0.2 cents a year ago; the 18-bagger is now sitting at 3.6c:

Invion (ASX:IVX) is the best performing ASX health stock over the past year
Invion (ASX:IVX) is the best performing ASX health stock over the past year

Another cancer fighter, Patrys (ASX:PAB) is the only other health stock remotely close — a seven-bagger since  this time last year with a 640 per cent rise to 3.7c.

Plenty of opportunities

John Hester, a senior healthcare analyst at Bell Potter, says risk can result in great reward when it comes to health stocks.

“We look at a lot of medical devices and drug developers that are outside the ASX100 and a lot of it is speculative and high risk,” Mr Hester told Stockhead.

“But these same companies can also deliver enormous returns over a short period of time.

>> Scroll down for a table showing how ASX-listed health stocks have performed over the past 12 months

“It’s companies who are looking at unmet needs in the medical space — examples include Mesoblast and Starpharma. Viralytics was a tremendous success story, it was a five or six-bagger and then was acquired by Merck.

“It’s a risky and difficult sector, you really need to rely on good advisors.

“But there are plenty of opportunities and if you miss one there’s another boat leaving shortly after.”

MedTech leads the pack

Of the top 20 performing health stocks in our table, six are using technology or making devices for patient care:

PolyNovo (ASX:PNV) makes biodegradable wound dressings for the treatment of burns, surgical wounds and negative-pressure wound therapy. Their flagship product, Novosorb, has been described as a “med-tech Swiss Army knife”.

Its shares are up 182 per cent year-on-year, trading at an intraday high today of 53.5c.

Respiri (ASX:RSH) is developing a digital wheeze detection and asthma measurement technology — a digital stethoscope. The $38 million company’s chief is Mario Gattino, formerly a senior executive at big pharma giant Pfizer. It’s up 177 per cent in the last 12 months, hitting an intraday high of 8.3c today.

Other big winners include respiratory disease digital disruptors ResApp Health (ASX:RAP) up 116 per cent; patient technology exports Jayex Healthcare (ASX:JHL) up 105 per cent; cancer fighter Sirtex Medical (ASX:SRX) up 95 per cent and imaging tech Pro Medicus (ASX:PME) up 69 per cent.

It’s no surprise medicinal cannabis stocks also feature among the best-performing healthcare stocks.

Cann Group (ASX:CAN) shares are up 171 per cent in the past year. The $378 million company undertook a mammoth $60 million raise late last year, accounting for a quarter of all money raised by pot stocks in the 2017-18 financial year.

Botanix Pharma (ASX:BOT) has been rapidly executing its clinical program, with its various cannabidiol-based skin care products undertaking in-human trials. The company’s shares have risen 105 per cent year-on-year, and traded at an intraday high of 10 cents today.

The Hydroponics Company (ASX:THC) has also had a good year, with its shares rocketing 71 per cent.

Who’s on the naughty list?

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in the sector, with some 84 companies — more than half of the listed health stocks — trending down over the past year.

AirXpanders (ASX:AXP) is the company with the unfortunate title of worst-performed health stock over the past 12 months.

In early 2017 the company — which makes patient-controlled breast tissue expanders for women who’ve had mastectomies — was considered one of the darlings of the medtech sector. But a series of bad news stories involving staff cuts, missed sales and the exit of its chief executive sent the stock careering in the wrong direction.

Shares in the $39 million company are down 88 per cent, trading at an intraday low of 7.6c, a long way from its August 2017 height of 62.8c.

There are few prevailing themes in the bottom 20 performers, although two of the bottom three – Skin Elements (ASX:SKN) and Traditional Therapies (ASX:TTC) both work in the ‘wellness’ space. Their shares were down 81 and 80 per cent respectively.

>> Here’s a table showing how ASX-listed health stocks have performed over the past 12 and six months: 

ASX code Company 12-month price change 6-month price change Price Aug 14 (intraday)
IVX INVION 17 0.8 0.036
PAB PATRYS 6.4 0.85 0.037
PBP PROBIOTEC 2.48888888889 0.784090909091 1.57
PAR PARADIGM BIO 1.98181818182 1.92857142857 0.82
PNV POLYNOVO 1.81578947368 0.0490196078431 0.535
RSH RESPIRI 1.76666666667 0.185714285714 0.083
CAN CANN GROUP 1.71153846154 -0.150602409639 2.82
RAP RESAPP HEALTH 1.16049382716 1.1875 0.175
TLX TELIX PHARMA 1.15151515152 0.42 0.71
CYP CYNATA THERA 1.08849557522 0.388235294118 1.18
IMC IMMURON 1.05882352941 0.4 0.35
JHL JAYEX HEALTHCARE 1.04761904762 0.433333333333 0.043
BOT BOTANIX PHARMA 1.04081632653 -0.0909090909091 0.1
BXN BIOXYNE 0.947368421053 -0.471428571429 0.037
CUV CLINUVEL PHARMA 0.945397815913 0.423515981735 12.47
SRX SIRTEX MEDICAL 0.945365254758 0.144456482485 31.69
S66 STAR COMBO (listed May 2018) 0.86 0.86 0.93
THC HYDROPONICS 0.714285714286 -0.368421052632 0.48
PME PRO MEDICUS 0.688128772636 0.0728900255754 8.39
RGS REGENEUS 0.666666666667 0.538461538462 0.2
IMM IMMUTEP 0.666666666667 0.75 0.035
BKL BLACKMORES 0.644046953605 -0.0513482131338 147.06
CSL CSL 0.596706515715 0.350927724563 201.68
IDX INTEGRAL DIAG 0.551724137931 0.227272727273 2.7
NOX NOXOPHARM 0.5 -0.495798319328 0.6
VHT VOLPARA HEALTH 0.478260869565 0.133333333333 0.85
AC8 AUSCANN GROUP 0.478260869565 -0.472049689441 0.85
PTX PRESCIENT THERAP 0.473684210526 0.4 0.084
BLT BENITEC BIO 0.472868217054 -0.136363636364 0.19
M7T MACH7 TECH 0.4375 -0.258064516129 0.23
NAN NANOSONICS 0.435684647303 0.276752767528 3.46
EXL ELIXINOL GLOBAL (listed Jan 2018) 0.42 0.0676691729323 1.42
AVH AVITA MEDICAL 0.403225806452 0.45 0.087
SPL STARPHARMA 0.389830508475 -0.102189781022 1.23
COH COCHLEAR 0.335347856641 0.0797204386613 190.02
ANN ANSELL 0.334609861178 0.154451345756 27.88
IDT IDT AUSTRALIA 0.236842105263 0.175 0.094
PXS PHARMAXIS 0.22641509434 0.160714285714 0.325
MXC MGC PHARMA 0.204081632653 -0.463636363636 0.059
MYX MAYNE PHARMA 0.203821656051 0.410447761194 0.945
ALT ANALYTICA 0.2 -0.4 0.006
BD1 BARD1 LIFE 0.181818181818 0.3 0.013
1AD ADALTA 0.18 -0.078125 0.295
IMU IMUGENE 0.176470588235 0 0.02
MDR MEDADVISOR 0.171428571429 -0.18 0.041
IVQ INVITROCUE 0.153846153846 0.05 0.105
NSB NEUROSCIENTIFIC BIOPHARMA (listed Jul 2018) 0.15 0.15 0.23
SHL SONIC HEALTHCARE 0.148075240595 0.0840561751342 26.245
NEU NEUREN PHARMA 0.14406779661 -0.543918918919 1.35
API AUST PHARMA 0.128712871287 0.155405405405 1.71
ACL ALCHEMIA 0.125 -0.1 0.009
OCC ORTHOCELL 0.118644067797 0.0645161290323 0.33
NHL NOVITA HEALTHCARE 0.0666666666667 -0.2 0.032
RNO RHINOMED 0.0666666666667 1.18181818182 0.24
CYC CYCLOPHARM 0.0650887573964 -0.0322580645161 0.9
EHE ESTIA HEALTH 0.0604026845638 0.0128205128205 3.16
CDX CARDIEX 0.0588235294118 0.2 0.036
KZA KAZIA THERAP 0.0555555555556 -0.166666666667 0.475
AJJ ASIAN AMERICAN MED 0.05 0.05 0.105
SIE SCIGEN 0.0461538461538 2.4 0.068
BNO BIONOMICS 0.0454545454545 0.243243243243 0.46
CAJ CAPITOL HEALTH 0.0448275862069 0.165384615385 0.303
GMV G MEDICAL INNHOL 0.0384615384615 -0.1 0.27
GBI GENERA BIOSYSTEMS (suspended) 0.0322580645161 -0.0588235294118 0.16
RCE RECCE PHARMA 0.0285714285714 0.0588235294118 0.18
CPH CRESO PHARMA 0.019801980198 -0.474489795918 0.515
ACW ACTINOGEN MED 0.0178571428571 0.14 0.057
ARF ARENA REIT 0.013698630137 -0.0220264317181 2.22
SIL SMILES INCLUSIVE (listed Apr 2018) 0.01 0.01 1.01
POH PHOSPHAGENICS 0 -0.05 0.019
IHL IMPRESSION HEALTH 0 -0.333333333333 0.02
OVN OVENTUS MEDICAL 0 -0.367346938776 0.31
ICS ICSGLOBAL -0.00925925925926 -0.235714285714 1.07
CMP COMPUMEDICS -0.0111111111111 0.171052631579 0.445
HSO HEALTHSCOPE -0.0251141552511 0.141711229947 2.135
VRT VIRTUS HEALTH -0.0265017667845 0.0782778864971 5.51
MSB MESOBLAST -0.0469376073268 0.332 1.665
ONT 1300 SMILES -0.0472779369628 0.0152671755725 6.65
BWX BWX -0.0524667188724 -0.324965132497 4.84
BIT BIOTRON -0.0555555555556 -0.15 0.017
SDI SDI -0.0555555555556 -0.15 0.51
JHC JAPARA HEALTH -0.064631043257 -0.0326315789474 1.838
NVL NAT VET CARE -0.0737704918033 -0.220689655172 2.26
ZNT ZENITAS HEALTH -0.0826086956522 -0.0826086956522 1.055
UCM USCOM -0.0833333333333 -0.282608695652 0.165
PRY PRIMARY HEALTH -0.0890804597701 -0.0942857142857 3.17
ADR ADHERIUM -0.0957446808511 -0.0555555555556 0.085
1ST 1ST GROUP -0.0975609756098 -0.26 0.037
REG REGIS HEALTHCARE -0.112860892388 -0.110526315789 3.38
RHT RESONANCE HEALTH -0.12 0.1 0.022
CP1 CANNPAL ANIMAL (listed Oct 2017) -0.125 -0.375 0.175
PGC PARAGON CARE -0.147121535181 0.0958904109589 0.8
ALC ALCIDION GROUP -0.148148148148 0.15 0.046
EHH EAGLE HEALTH -0.157894736842 0.185185185185 0.32
PCK PAINCHEK -0.157894736842 -0.2 0.048
PBT PRANA BIOTECH -0.163636363636 -0.08 0.046
PSQ PACIFIC SMILES -0.163888888889 -0.0534591194969 1.505
AHX APIAM ANIMAL -0.179104477612 -0.33734939759 0.55
HCT HOLISTA COLLTECH -0.217391304348 -0.181818181818 0.09
NTI NEUROTECH INT -0.219512195122 -0.0588235294118 0.16
FTT FACTOR THERA -0.220338983051 0.15 0.046
PYC PHYLOGICA -0.222222222222 0.166666666667 0.035
ZLD ZELDA THERA -0.222222222222 -0.5 0.07
MVP MEDICAL DEV -0.223300970874 -0.475753604194 4
ACR ACRUX -0.22641509434 0.205882352941 0.205
CDY CELLMID -0.23 -0.27358490566 0.385
RHC RAMSAY HEALTH -0.25 -0.177630588589 54.63
IIL INNATE IMMUNO -0.25 0.15 0.345
FFC FARMAFORCE -0.253846153846 -0.03 0.097
OIL OPTISCAN -0.25974025974 -0.2875 0.057
OPT OPTHEA -0.264150943396 0.0636363636364 0.585
AZV AZURE HEALTHCARE -0.265306122449 0.2 0.072
RHY RHYTHM BIOSCIENCES (listed Dec 2017) -0.275 -0.236842105263 0.145
AMT ALLEGRA ORTHO -0.28 -0.526315789474 0.09
ANP ANTISENSE THERA -0.28125 -0.233333333333 0.023
MVF MONASH IVF GROUP -0.285714285714 -0.08203125 1.175
MX1 MICRO-X -0.285714285714 -0.189189189189 0.3
VLS VITA LIFE -0.299019607843 -0.10625 0.715
VBS VECTUS BIOSYSTEM -0.31724137931 -0.1 0.99
BRC BRAIN RES -0.333333333333 0 0.05
ELX ELLEX MEDICAL -0.333333333333 -0.261363636364 0.65
ANR ANATARA LIFE -0.344262295082 -0.638554216867 0.6
UBI UNIVERSAL -0.358974358974 -0.107142857143 0.25
SOM SOMNOMED -0.368947708199 -0.354785478548 1.955
SIG SIGMA HEALTHCARE -0.37125748503 -0.375 0.525
LSH LIFESPOT HEALTH -0.38 -0.335714285714 0.093
KKT KONEKT -0.38679245283 -0.308510638298 0.325
PAA PHARMAUST -0.392857142857 -0.32 0.034
SDX SIENNA CANCER -0.394736842105 -0.08 0.092
AHZ ADMEDUS -0.4 -0.46 0.135
MGZ MEDIGARD -0.407407407407 -0.2 0.016
OSP OSPREY MEDIC -0.411764705882 -0.193548387097 0.25
OBJ OBJ -0.411764705882 -0.25 0.03
MEB MEDIBIO -0.423076923077 -0.1 0.225
MDC MEDLAB CLINICAL -0.423076923077 -0.415584415584 0.45
MMJ MMJ PHYTOTECH -0.441860465116 -0.478260869565 0.24
GLH GLOBAL HEALTH -0.445945945946 -0.18 0.205
CGS COGSTATE -0.483412322275 -0.387640449438 0.545
AHY ASALEO CARE -0.493055555556 -0.510067114094 0.73
IPD IMPEDIMED -0.518461538462 -0.539705882353 0.313
DXB DIMERIX -0.547619047619 -0.269230769231 0.095
IBX IMAGION BIO -0.548387096774 0 0.07
LBT LBT INNOVATIONS -0.583333333333 -0.305555555556 0.125
TDL TBG DIAGNOSTICS -0.585185185185 -0.2 0.056
RAC RACE ONCOLOGY -0.6 -0.681818181818 0.14
ITD ITL HEALTH GROUP -0.60824742268 -0.486486486486 0.19
SCU STEMCELL UNITED -0.609375 -0.375 0.025
ESE ESENSE -0.630303030303 -0.661111111111 0.061
RVA REVA MEDICAL -0.647058823529 -0.5 0.24
SUD SUDA PHARMA -0.666666666667 -0.5 0.005
DVL DORSAVI -0.690322580645 -0.563636363636 0.096
ONE ONEVIEW -0.75 -0.458128078818 1.1
LCT LIVING CELL TECH -0.782608695652 -0.166666666667 0.025
TTC TRADITIONAL THERA -0.8 -0.4 0.06
SKN SKIN ELEMENTS -0.808219178082 -0.745454545455 0.028
AXP AIRXPANDERS -0.87898089172 -0.841666666667 0.076