Merck bets big on hepatitis C market with Idenix purchase
- Merck is betting big on hepatitis C therapeutics by buying Idenix for $3.85 billion
- Idenix has three hepatitis C drugs in clinical development.
- Merck has its own hepatitis C drug in clinical development that recently received breakthrough therapy status from the FDA.
Merck is refining and focusing its portfolio. First, it sold its consumer business to Bayer in early May for $14.2 billion, and now it is planning to purchase Idenix for $3.85 billion. Idenix stock prices were up 229% on Monday based on news of the acquisition.
Merck’s goal is to augment its hepatitis C portfolio and strategically increase its presence in the hepatitis C therapeutic marketplace. Idenix currently has two nucleotide prodrugs and an NS5A inhibitor (samastavir) in development. In October 2013, Merck received breakthrough therapy status for its oral, interferon-free, combination-drug hepatitis C therapy---MK-5172/MK-9742, an investigational combination of a protease inhibitor with an HCV NS5A inhibitor.
Merck is joining AbbVie and other companies in its aggressive pursuit of the hepatitis C market, because the potential upside is in the billions of dollars. Express Scripts has forecast an 1,800% increase in spending on hepatitis C medications by 2016, compared to last year.