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Merck to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals for $3.85 billion

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Jun 10, 2014

  • Industry Updates

Merck, the second-biggest US drugmaker, agreed to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals for about $3.85 billion to expand its experimental pipeline for hepatitis C treatments.

Idenix holders will receive $24.50 a share in cash, Merck said in a statement today.

The price is more than triple Idenix’s closing level on June 6 of $7.23.

Buying the Massachusetts-based company will help Merck in the race to develop a daily, all-oral regimen that treats different strains of the viral infection and doesn’t include ribavirin, a standard treatment for hepatitis C that has serious side effects.

In April, Merck said its once-a-day hepatitis C pill, which combined two drugs, stopped the virus in a mid-stage study in 98 per cent of newly treated patients with few major side effects.

“We’ve been talking with Idenix for a long time, and have a long history in this field,” said Roger Perlmutter, who joined the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based company as president of Merck Research Laboratories in April, 2013.

Merck shares dropped 0.6 per cent to $57.46 in early trading at 8.54am New York time. Idenix shares more than tripled to $24.28.

Idenix came to Merck after another company approached it about a possible deal, Mr Perlmutter said in a telephone interview today.

Once that happened, Idenix started a sale, and “I’m delighted to say we won the process,” he said.

Idenix’s lead drug, IDX21437, works similarly to Gilead Science’s Sovaldi, which won US regulatory in December and costs $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.

Prior to the development of Sovaldi, hepatitis C treatment entailed a regimen of two or more antiviral drugs with many side effects.

Merck is racing Gilead, Johnson and Johnson and Abbvie to establish a strong presence against a disease that affects an estimated 170 million people worldwide and carries a potential market of $20 billion a year.

Source (Irish Times 10/6/14)

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