Merck & Co Inc said it would buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc in a deal valued at about $3.85 billion to strengthen its hepatitis C drugs portfolio.
The deal comes as drugmakers look to beef up their hepatitis C drug offerings to better compete with Gilead Sciences Inc, which has captured the hepatitis C drugs market with its treatment, Sovaldi. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Idenix, which focuses on the treatment of human viral diseases, has three drugs in development to treat hepatitis C.
An estimated 3.2 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C infection, with most being unaware of the infection and showing no symptoms, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sovaldi, which costs about $84,000 a year per patient, generated $2.3 billion in sales in the first few months on the market.
Idenix’s experimental drug, IDX21437, in combination with Merck’s two experimental drugs, MK-5172 and MK-8742, has the potential to cure patients with every genotype of the hepatitis C virus within four-six weeks, Merck’s research chief Roger Perlmutter told Reuters on Monday.