ICN Shares Decline as Rival Drug Emerges

Dow Jones

ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc. shares fell 12% Wednesday amid fears that a hepatitis drug by another company might compete with ICN's treatment.

ICN's treatment, combined with Schering-Plough Corp.'s Intron A, is called Rebetron. Analysts said another company, Enzon Inc., is developing, also with Schering-Plough, its own version of Intron A for hepatitis C that might be more effective and require fewer injections.

Shares of Costa Mesa-based ICN fell $3.25 to $24.81. Enzon shares rose 78 cents, or 3%, to $26.97.

Eugene Melnitchenko, an analyst at Sutro & Co., said that contrary to market fears, most health care experts see patients combining ICN and Enzon treatments.

Melnitchenko said U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray gave Enzon a "buy" rating, which, in the minds of some investors, cast a cloud over ICN.

Piper Jaffray analyst Mark Augustine said ICN's stock could be down as investors psychologically connect Enzon's version of the drug with "cannibalizing or having adverse consequences on ICN." He discounted that possibility, however, also noting that specialists expect to combine the Enzon and ICN drugs.

ICN executives were not available for comment.

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