AbbVie to co-promote hep C diagnostic

Under a co-promotion agreement with OraSure Technologies ($OSUR), maker of the the sole FDA-approved point-of-care test for the hepatitis C virus, AbbVie ($ABBV) will have exclusive promotion rights to the OraQuick HCV Rapid Test.

"We believe it is critical that at-risk individuals be tested for hepatitis C to prevent serious consequences from untreated infection," OraSure CEO Douglas A. Michels said in a June 11 statement. "This new collaboration allows us to educate healthcare professionals and the patients they treat about hepatitis C and provide them with a very important rapid diagnostic tool."

OraSure will receive as much as $75 million in exclusivity payments during the duration of the agreement, which is in effect until the end of 2019. OraQuick makes a diagnosis in 20 minutes using fingersticks or venipuncture blood, the statement says.

AbbVie becomes the latest member of Big Pharma to show interest in hepatitis C treatment. On June 9, Merck ($MRK) anted up $3.8 billion to buy Idenix Pharmaceuticals ($IDX), which has three hepatitis C drugs in early stage development. Gilead's ($GILD) $84,000 price tag for its new hepatitis C treatment in the U.S. suggests the market is lucrative (although the price tag has generated pushback).

OraSure says about 5 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C and up to 75% of them don't know they have the disease. Worldwide, an estimated 150 million patients need treatment.

- read the press release

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