(AP) — The drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is building a hepatitis C virus treatment franchise that could be launched by 2015 and produce as much as $2.9 billion in global sales five years later, according to a Citi analyst.The New York company is close to starting a late-stage clinical development program for the franchise in Japan, where its opportunity is underappreciated, Citi analyst John T. Boris said in a research note late Thursday. He said it is estimated that there are as many as 2 million hepatitis C virus carriers in Japan, with 20 per cent diagnosed and 30 per cent treated.
Another late-stage trial was started this month and is expected to be completed in 2013
Hepatitis C is the primary cause of liver transplants in the United States and is expected to become a much larger public health problem as ageing baby boomers succumb to the disease. It’s an infectious disease that can be spread by sharing needles or having sex with an infected person.
Boris said in the note he is maintaining a “buy” rating on Bristol-Myers shares, which have risen more than 17 per cent in value so far this year.
The stock closed at $31.12 on Thursday after hitting a 52-week high of $31.78 earlier this month.
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