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FTC Seeks To Nix Cytyc s Acquisition of Digene

NEW YORK, June 25-The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said it would seek to block Cytyc's acquisition of Digene as a violation of federal antitrust laws.


The acquisition, said the FTC, would lead to decreased competition in the highly concentrated market for cervical cancer diagnostics.


FTC staff will now seek a court injunction to block the purchase, and plan to file a motion with the federal district courts by Thursday, June 27.


Liquid Pap tests are the most commonly used primary screen for cervical cancer, and Cytyc dominates this market with a 93 percent share. Digene is the only U.S. company to offer a DNA-based diagnostic for human papilloma virus, the pathogen believed to cause the disease.


Digene's HPV test is now only offered as a follow-up to clarify Pap test results, but the company is seeking permission to market the test as a primary screen in conjunction with a traditional Pap smear, and as a stand-alone test.


Cytyc announced its plans to acquire Digenein February.


By mid-morning today, Cytyc shares had plummeted nearly 30 percent from yesterday's close, slipping from $11.46 yesterday to $8.05 this morning. Digene's share price had fallen from $12.69 at yesterday's close to $10.85 mid-morning today, down 14.5 percent.

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