WASHINGTON -- Investors bid up Amgen Inc.'s stock price torecord highs on Thursday when the company's Neupogencancer-treatment drug became the first colony stimulatingfactor to be approved for use in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Amgen'sgranulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), trade namedNeupogen, for preventing infections after chemotherapy forcancers that do not arise from bone marrow.

Amgen's stock (NASDAQ:AMGN) surged $6.50 on the news, toclose Thursday at a record $95.25 on a volume of 1.7 millionshares. The price has jumped about 60 percent since an FDAcommittee recommended approval last December.

"This is probably the single biggest biotech drug to getapproved this year," said pharmaceutical analyst Denise Gilbertof County NatWest Securities in San Francisco. She estimatesNeupogen could reach $115 million in U.S. sales in its first year.As Neupogen helps patients tolerate more rounds ofchemotherapy, Gilbert expects sales to at least double by thesecond year.

Amgen spokesman Mark Brand said Neupogen will be sold intwo vial sizes, priced at $108 and $172. The standard dose willbe one vial per day, with the size depending on the patient'sbody weight. He said the company will begin shippingNeupogen next week.

Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., beat two competitors forapproval to enter the market.

Immunex Corp.'s granulocyte macrophage colony stimulatingfactor (GM-CSF) was recommended for approval by the sameFDA committee. Immunex spokesman Jason Rubin said theSeattle company expects its drug to be approved "within daysor weeks." Immunex stock (NASDAQ: IMNX) closed at $40.50 onThursday, up $4.25.

Schering-Plough Corp. spokesman Ron Asinari declined tocomment on how soon its GM-CSF would be approved.Biotechnology analyst Margaret McGeorge of Sutro & Co. in SanFrancisco said she expects Schering-Plough's drug to beapproved in the second half of 1991 if the FDA advisorycommittee meets by then.

-- Carol Ezzell Washington Bureau Chief

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.