AbbVie buys special review voucher for $350 million

(Reuters) - AbbVie Inc has bought a priority review voucher from United Therapeutics Corp for $350 million that will allow it to accelerate the review process for one of its drugs.

United Therapeutics received a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher in March after its drug, Unituxin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat neuroblastoma, the company said on Wednesday.

The voucher, which offers a plethora of incentives, makes its holder eligible to have one of its drugs reviewed in six months, compared to the standard 10 months.

AbbVie did not disclose its plans for the voucher.

The company has multiple drugs in late-stage development, as well as therapies for which marketing applications have been submitted, including treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetic nephropathy.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc was the first to receive a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher in February 2014 following the approval of its drug, Vimizim, to treat a rare congenital enzyme disorder.

The company sold the voucher five months later to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and France’s Sanofi SA for $67.5 million, allowing the companies to reduce the lead Amgen Inc had in the race to bring a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs to the market.

The French drugmaker earlier this year bought another pediatric voucher from Retrophin Inc for $245 million, after the latter received approval for its drug, Cholbam.

The pediatric disease priority review program takes off from a similar program intended to help spur the development of new drugs for neglected diseases.

Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila