Tuesday, September 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Merck to pay $3.85B for hepatitis C drug developer

Merck

FILE - This Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 file photo shows a patch with the Merck logo on a scientist's lab coat in West Point, Pa. Merck on Monday, June 9, 2014 announced it will spend nearly $4 billion for Idenix Pharmaceuticals with a per-share bid that more than triples the hepatitis C drug developer’s latest closing price. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By
June 10, 2014 |

TRENTON, N.J. — Merck & Co. will spend about $3.85 billion for Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc., a small company developing hepatitis C medicines that, together with Merck’s experimental drugs, could produce lucrative combo therapies that quickly cure most patients with the blood-borne virus afflicting tens of millions.

The price for the deal announced Monday — a per-share bid more than triple Friday’s closing price for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Idenix — seems high. However, the latest hepatitis C medicines command very high prices, the number of patients keeps rising and Merck was bidding against rivals.

Hepatitis C has become one of the hottest categories in drug research as companies race to develop a combination therapy without injections and debilitating side effects. Some have had their promising candidates fail after extensive testing, due to dangerous side effects, but Gilead Sciences Inc. is already raking in billions of dollars from its groundbreaking new drug, Sovaldi.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, said it will spend $24.50 in cash for each Idenix share. Idenix closed at $7.23 on Friday, then more than tripled at Monday’s opening bell.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, which should close in the third quarter.

“Idenix has established a promising portfolio of hepatitis C candidates based on its expertise in (certain) technologies,” Merck’s research head, Dr. Roger Perlmutter, said in a statement.

Three Idenix experimental drugs have reached human testing and one, samatasvir, is in mid-stage testing. It’s in a new drug class called NS5A inhibitors, which disrupt various stages of the virus life cycle. Two other drugs, known as IDX21437 and IDX21459, are in a class called nucleotide prodrugs, which stop the virus from producing genetic material needed to copy itself.

Merck has been testing two drugs together, MK-5172 and MK-8742, that the Food and Drug Administration has deemed a breakthrough therapy. Merck will soon start late-stage testing of the two drugs together and presumably will study them in combinations with the Idenix drugs.

About 4.4 million Americans and an estimated 170 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C, the leading cause of liver cancer and, in wealthy countries, the top reason for liver transplants. In the U.S., it kills more than 16,000 people a year.

While most people infected don’t know it because there are no obvious symptoms, a growing number have been identified and started treatment in the last few years as more effective medicines have been approved. That number is expected to grow as the U.S. population ages and patients infected decades ago through intravenous drug use, or from blood transfusions before the early 1990s, are diagnosed.

Merck has been a major player in hepatitis C since acquiring Schering-Plough in 2009. Back then, treatment was limited to twice-a-day pills called ribavirin and self-injections of a long-acting, synthetic form of immune system protein interferon. Treatment often lasted 48 weeks, only about 40 percent of patients were cured, and flu-like symptoms and other side effects of the interferon kept many patients from completing treatment.

In 2011, the FDA approved two drugs in a class called protease inhibitors, Merck’s Victrelis and Incivek from Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Those are taken with ribavirin and interferon, work by blocking an enzyme needed for copying the virus, and boost the cure rate to about 75 percent. But they require patients to take a dozen pills a day, and still endure flu-like side effects.

Last December, the FDA approved Gilead’s once-a-day pill Sovaldi, which cures 80 percent to 90 percent of patients, without the interferon injections and side effects.

Physicians quickly embraced it, and Sovaldi racked up more than $2 billion in sales in its first full quarter on sale, considered the best new drug launch in history. That’s mainly because of Sovaldi’s high price, about $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course, which continues to draw criticism from patients, insurers and government.

Sovaldi appears poised to dominate the hepatitis C market, greatly outselling Johnson & Johnson’s Olysio, approved about the same time. But there’s plenty of room for Merck and others because Sovaldi can’t be taken by some patients with multiple illnesses or certain hepatitis C subtypes.

In afternoon trading, Idenix shares climbed $16.76 to $23.99. Merck shares slipped 5 cents to $57.80.

Shares of another hepatitis C drug developer, Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc., now seen as a potential takeover target, climbed 58 percent to $4.55.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Police enlist help to find armed bandit

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A5, 9 Comments | Gallery

 
Chamber PAC draws candidates to Jelly Belly

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
 
Weather for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

Coastal Cleanup Day targets local waterways

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Drama reigns supreme with week’s film debuts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Judge questions juror in Calkins case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

Suisun City slaying suspect case moves forward

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Touro University to host Zombie Run/Walk

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Land trust organizes Rockville Trails Preserve hike

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
.

US / World

6 killed, 15 wounded in east Ukraine city

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Afghan suicide bomber kills 3 foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
State Sen. Wright resigns after voter fraud case

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

Gazans rush to enjoy life after ruinous war

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Decades later, Vietnam soldiers get Medal of Honor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Mystery airstrikes target Libyan Islamist militias

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Tiny Qatar plays outsize role in US war strategy

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Generation gap: Young Scots favor independence

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Police: Rifle used to ambush Pennsylvania troopers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Hurricane Odile slams Mexico’s Baja California

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
House GOP moves ahead on Syrian rebel training

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Kerry: US open to talks with Iran on Islamic State

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Poll: Voters support legal path for immigrants

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 2 Comments

Man suspected of firing on kids at ice cream truck

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
NASA inspector blasts asteroid protection program

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

Officials disclose Delaware funeral home Jonestown remains

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Southern California swelters in heat wave

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Northern California wildfire burns 100 homes

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
9 hurt in crash on SF Bay Area freeway

By The Associated Press | From Page:

PG&E officials removed for improper communications

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Chicago, NY, Hawaii on Obama library’s short list

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 2 Comments | Gallery

Powerful Washington lobbyist Boggs dies at 73

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Opinion

 
Column focus on campaign signs misplaced

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 8 Comments

.

Living

Community Calendar: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
.

Entertainment

Apple releases tool to remove free U2 album

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Cat Stevens announces brief US concert tour

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Forward-thinking U2 innovating while entertaining

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Revamped ‘View’ begins its daytime run

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Clooney to receive HFPA’s Cecil B. DeMille Award

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Exhibition looks at genius of carousel inventor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Miss America: More to worry about than red cup

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Protocol followed in detention of actress

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Jean Paul Gaultier to stop making ready-to-wear

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane sentenced in assault

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Bob Crewe, ‘Walk Like a Man’ writer, dead at 83

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
TVGrid Seot 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Diamondbacks knock off Giants 6-2

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Prep boys soccer: Vanden wins, Armijo ties, VCS falls

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

Prep volleyball: VCS swept by Woodland Christian

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Foles leads Eagles to 30-27 win against Colts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

This date in sports history for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Cardinals manager can relate to Stanton incident

By The Associated Press | From Page:

As troops exit, Britain aids soccer in Afghanistan

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
US uses big third quarter to pull away from Canada

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Backup QBs make their marks in Week 2

By Barry Wilner | From Page:

 
NFL, union close to finalizing new drug policy

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Tanaka 5 scoreless innings in instructional league

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Mets rookie deGrom ties K mark; Marlins win 6-5

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Papelbon suspended 7 games by MLB

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Dream Team, Barcelona Games continue to impact NBA

By The Associated Press | From Page:

US basketball reigns in Spain, awaits Rio Olympics

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
AP Source: Raiders to sign WR Vincent Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Raiders embarrassed after 0-2 start

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Redskins optimistic RG3 will return this season

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Pistorius free to compete, SA Olympic body says

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Woods says strength is back, but not swing

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Domestic violence experts added as NFL advisers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Union expects to file Rice appeal Tuesday

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Vikings bring back Peterson despite abuse charge

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Patriots still not quite right with ball

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Harbaugh: McDonald’s legal process must play out

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Business

US wealth gap putting the squeeze on state revenue

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Speculation swirls over Fed language on rate hike

By The Associated Press | From Page:

GM expert says 19 deaths eligible for compensation

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Once-troubled reverse mortgages poised for rebound

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Apple: Record 4M orders of iPhones on 1st day

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
‘Minecraft’ could boost Microsoft’s mobile reach

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Stocks mixed ahead of Fed; small companies slump

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Obituaries

Minnie Lee Dixon

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Bridge Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield September 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Cryptoquote Sept 16

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5