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Amgen Up 9% After Hearing in Epogen Patent Dispute

March 28, 2000|From Bloomberg News

Shares of Amgen Inc. rose 9% Monday as the world's biggest biotechnology company went to court for preliminary hearings on its bid to keep rival Transkaryotic Therapies Inc. from introducing a version of Amgen's blockbuster anemia drug Epogen in the U.S.

Amgen shares rose $5.81 to close at $60.38 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Transkaryotic shares fell $7.88, or 10%, to close at $70.25, also on Nasdaq.

At stake is one of the world's top-selling medicines. Thousand Oaks-based Amgen sells the drug as Epogen to treat kidney dialysis patients. Its 1999 sales rose 27% to $1.8 billion. Amgen also licenses the drug to Johnson & Johnson, which sells it as Procrit for use in other anemia patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy. Analysts said Procrit had more than $2 billion in 1999 sales.

"People are impressed with Amgen's presentation," said Stephen Flaks, manager of the Flaks Partners biotechnology hedge fund.

U.S. District Judge William Young in Boston sided with Amgen in a debate about whether Epogen patents apply to mammals. But that doesn't mean he will rule in Amgen's favor during the trial.

"We're pleased with the results," said Amgen Chief Executive Gordon Binder, who was in the courtroom Monday. "The rest of it is still in process. Stay tuned."

The hearing will continue today on which patent claims will be heard when the case goes to trial.

Amgen says Cambridge, Mass.-based Transkaryotic's version of the drug, which French drug maker Aventis is helping to develop, violates 18 patent claims. The drug is a copy of a naturally occurring human protein, erythropoietin, that spurs growth in red blood cells.

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