ABBOTT PARK, IL--Abbott Laboratories has handed PR duties for its hepatitis C (HCV) portfolio to Fleishman-Hillard, as the company eyes multibillion dollar revenues from new drugs to treat the serious liver disease.

The Holmes Report understands that Fleishman secured the business following a competitive review held earlier this year.

Abbott shares rose three percent yesterday when the company revealed encouraging data from midstage testing of three new HCV drugs.

The new drugs differ from conventional HCV treatments because they do not need to be taken with interferon, which often causes severe flu-like symptoms.

Abbott, like many of its rival pharma companies, is aiming to develop interferon-free treatments in expectation that they will bring in billions of dollars once approved. 

WHO estimates that about three percent of the world’s population has been infected with HCV and that there are more than 170 million chronic carriers who are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. There is no vaccine against the disease.

Abbott's HCV portfolio is expected to form a core component of AbbVie, the $19bn pharmaceutical business that will spin off from its parent business at the end of this year.

Representatives from both Abbott and Fleishman-Hillard declined to comment.