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Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Monday that it's completed its tender offer for the stock of Inhibitex Inc., a drug developer that Bristol is buying for $2.5 billion as part of its strategy to become a player in the hot hepatitis C drug market.
New York-based Bristol-Myers said it now has about 91 percent of outstanding shares of Inhibitex, after buying just over 77.5 million shares through midnight Friday for $26 each.
That's the last step before the merger can be executed. A Bristol-Myers spokeswoman on Monday said the company is working to quickly complete the deal but could not say when it will close.
When that happens, remaining Inhibitex shares will be canceled, their owners will be able to receive $26 per share and Inhibitex will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bristol-Myers.
Earlier in February, the federal antitrust review period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust act expired, satisfying a key condition of the offer.
Bristol-Myers is an important maker of medicines for viruses, including Baraclude for hepatitis B and several HIV drugs, but has nothing for hepatitis C at a time when more patients need treatment. Over 3 million Americans have the blood-borne, tough-to-treat disease, which can go undetected for many years until the liver is severely damaged. More people will be diagnosed as the baby boomer generation ages.
After a two-decade drought, the first two new hepatitis C drugs were approved last year: Victrelis from Merck & Co. and Incivek, marketed by partners Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. Both significantly improve the cure rate over what has long been the standard of care -- a mix of injections and pills with nasty, flu-like side effects that takes several months and still doesn't cure many patients.
Last month, Bristol-Myers CEO Lamberto Andreotti said his company has four experimental hepatitis C drugs in development that could be a big improvement over the pills-and-shots regimen. The Bristol compounds might also be combined with those of Inhibitex to produce an even more-effective treatment.
Inhibitex has three experimental drugs in midstage human testing, including INX-189, for treating chronic hepatitis C infections. The other two compounds are FV-100, for reducing the pain caused by shingles, and Aurexis, a biologic antibody-based drugs for treating dangerous staph infections in the blood.
Inhibitex also has other potential hepatitis C treatments in laboratory testing, and has a proprietary technology that it's licensed to Pfizer Inc. for developing a possible staph vaccine.
Linda A. Johnson can be followed at http://twitter.com/LindaJ--onPharma