Chiron Vision Corp. said Tuesday it was granted marketing clearancefor its intraocular implant, Vitrasert, a drug delivery system to treatcytomegalovirus retinitis in AIDS patients.

Chiron Vision, a unit of Chiron Corp., is collaborating with RocheHoldings Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, on marketing and promotion ofVitrasert. Roche manufactures ganciclovir, the drug used in theimplant.

The Vitrasert Implant contains the antiviral drug ganciclovirembedded in a polymer-based system that releases drug into the eyefor up to eight months. The implant, placed in the posterior part ofthe eye via an incision, can be removed and replaced when the drugruns out.

A Phase III study comparing Vitrasert to intravenous ganciclovirshowed the group treated with Vitrasert had a median time toprogression of 216 days vs. 104 days for patients getting intravenousdrug.

"The product launch will begin immediately," said Larry Kurtz,Chiron's vice president of corporate communications. "We've beenprepared for this since late January."

Chiron, of Emeryville, Calif., and Roche will split revenue from salesafter Chiron takes a portion of sales to offset its manufacturing anddevelopment costs, Kurtz said. The implant will cost about $4,000and the entire procedure about $7,000 to $10,000, he said.

Chiron's sales people will target ophthalmic surgeons. Roche willfocus more on primary care and infectious disease physicians.

Kurtz said Vitrasert likely will replace intravenous ganciclovirbecause of the data showing clear benefit. The regimen that themedical community may be moving toward is Vitrasert and oralganciclovir.

Chiron's stock (NASDAQ:CHIR) gained $4.50 Tuesday to close at$115. _ Jim Shrine

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