176 ORPHAN DRUGS IN DEVELOPMENTA record number of orphan drugs are in development to treatrare diseases, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associationsaid Wednesday. A PMA survey shows that 176 treatments forrare diseases are in human clinical trials or at the Food andDrug Administration for review, a 32 percent increase over thePMA's first orphan drug survey of August 1989.


American Biogenetic Sciences Inc. (ABS) (NASDAQ:MABXA/U/W) of Notre Dame, Ind., has signed a letter of intentto acquire worldwide rights to an Alzheimer's diagnostic test.

ABS and Trinity College in Dublin will develop the test jointly,and plan to seek U.S. market approval in late 1991. Alzheimer'sis the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Themonoclonal antibody-based test will diagnose the early onset ofthe disease and monitor treatment regimens.


Merck & Co. of Rahway, N.J., said its board approved purchasesof up to an additional $1 billion of its own common stock.Shares will be used for employee benefits and other corporatepurposes.

The purchases will be made on the open market and in privatenegotiations. Between 1985 and 1990, Merck (NYSE:MRK) spent$2.7 billion to acquire 57 million shares of its stock on the openmarket, the company said. Merck has about 387 million sharesoutstanding. Merck's stock closed Wednesday at $103.13.

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