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VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY DIGEST

Amgen Raises Price of Epogen Anemia Drug

March 14, 2000|BARBARA MURPHY

Amgen Inc., the world's largest biotechnology company, has raised the price of its anemia drug Epogen for the first time in the drug's 11-year history.

Amgen spokesman Peter Teeley said the price of Epogen, the company's best-selling product, will rise 3.9% because inflation is increasing its costs. The price rise may be a sign Amgen needs to boost profit because it plans to increase spending to introduce new products, an analyst said.

"They promised Wall Street a certain level of earnings this year," said Charles Engelberg, an AmeriCal Securities analyst. "Maybe this is the only way they can achieve that."

Amgen has said it expects the drug's sales growth to be in the low teens this year.

Epogen sales rose 27% last year to $1.8 billion. However, some customers stockpiled Amgen products last year, making it tougher for the company to increase sales this year.

Teeley said he couldn't comment on how the price increase would affect profit.

The price hike was first disclosed by Total Renal Care Holdings, one of the biggest U.S. operators of kidney dialysis centers. Dialysis centers use Epogen to treat patients with dialysis-related anemia.

Total Renal issued a statement saying Amgen's move will cut its earnings this year.

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