Abbott's foray into imaging market gains momentum with Berlex deal

July 3, 1996

Abbott is acquiring portfolio of contrast agentsAre you ready for a new player in the U.S. contrast agent market?Abbott Laboratories gained instant stature in the industry lastmonth when it signed an alliance with Berlex Laboratories, theU.S.

Abbott is acquiring portfolio of contrast agents

Are you ready for a new player in the U.S. contrast agent market?Abbott Laboratories gained instant stature in the industry lastmonth when it signed an alliance with Berlex Laboratories, theU.S. subsidiary of German contrast giant Schering.

Under the terms of the deal, Abbott on July 1 began marketingSchering's Magnevist MRI agent and Ultravist x-ray agent to hospitals,with technical support from Berlex sales representatives. Magnevistwas the first MRI contrast agent on the U.S. market and stillmaintains the largest market share, while Berlex introduced Ultravistto the U.S. market last year (SCAN 6/7/95). The products are theonly imaging agents marketed in the U.S. by Berlex, which hadU.S. sales of $525 million last year.

The deal is the latest in a series of moves Abbott has made asit builds a position in the imaging industry. The Abbott Park,IL, company in May acquired U.S. marketing rights to EchoGen,an ultrasound contrast agent being developed by Sonus Pharmaceuticals(SCAN 5/22/96). Abbott has also filed an abbreviated new drugapplication for a generic version of Bracco's iopamidol nonionicx-ray agent, although Abbott remains mum on its intentions inthe generic segment.

Abbott is interested in broadening its product offerings to customers,and the Berlex agreement gives it instant access to an imagingagent product line, according to spokesperson Laureen Cassidy.

"It is a new business opportunity," Cassidy said.

"Abbott is very interested in its relationships with varioushealthcare systems, in terms of a breadth of products."

Berlex, on the other hand, will benefit by having its productsmarketed by Abbott's large sales force, which calls on thousandsof hospitals, according to Berlex spokesperson Wendy Neininger.Abbott sells a wide range of devices and consumables, includinganesthesia, drug delivery systems, IV solutions, oncology therapydrugs, and pumps.

Abbott will handle contracting for Magnevist and Ultravist, suchas negotiating the terms of sales agreements, signing contracts,shipping and distributing products, conducting support services,and other customer service functions. Berlex will provide technicalsupport, including product positioning and helping radiologists,referring physicians, and hospital executives understand the roleof contrast in medical imaging, according to Neininger.

"Berlex will maintain its presence in the hospital environment,but in a very specific role," she said.

Berlex will maintain responsibility for selling Magnevist andUltravist to the freestanding imaging center market. Berlex willalso continue to manufacture both products.