Merck announced that it will buy hepatitis C drug maker Idenix for $3.85 billion. Based in Cambridge, MA, Idenix is said to have three drugs in development to treat hepatitis C. In July 2012, the FDA granted Fast Track designation for Ideniz’s IDX719, and in January 2013 it entered into an agreement with Jansseen Pharmaceuticals to evaluate all oral hepatitis C virus (HCV) combination therapies.
More than 150 million people worldwide are infected with HCV. “And although there is a large market, a lot of people infected with hepatitis C, we do believe it will have a long tail in the marketplace as many of these patients do not yet know that they are infected with the disease,” said Matt Roden, biotech analyst at UBS, who spoke last month at the UBS Global Healthcare Conference. “Roughly half of these patients do not know they have the disease and 3 million to 4 million patients become infected each year. These patients are initially asymptomatic and typically take between 15 to 20 years to show signs of the disease before they are diagnosed.” (Abnormality does not show up on a routine blood test until they have severe liver damage.) Consensus is reporting about $15B to $20B in annual HCV global sales peaking in years 2016 to 2018.