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Digene Ads to Promote Company's HPV Test

Sales So Far Have Been Disappointing

By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page E04

Digene Corp. said yesterday that it has launched a print and television advertising campaign to promote its test for human papillomavirus, the leading cause of cervical cancer.

The Gaithersburg firm's efforts come as analysts have expressed concerns about slower-than-expected sales growth for the test, despite recommendations by a physician group that women over 30 be screened for HPV during their regular Pap test. Most women do not know that HPV causes cervical cancer, according to a survey cited by the firm.

Digene Corp.'s test detects the presence of human papillomavirus, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. (Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)

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Digene had predicted revenue of $125 million to $130 million for fiscal 2005, with the bulk of sales coming from the HPV test. In November, it lowered that revenue forecast to $115 million to $120 million.

To help boost demand for the test, Digene is targeting women through print advertisements that will appear later this month in nine magazines, including People, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook and Woman's Day.

Daytime TV commercials began last week in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta -- media markets Digene identified as having reasonable advertising rates and high populations of women over age 30.

Digene chief executive Evan Jones said the campaign initially will cost $3 million to $6 million.

It is designed, the firm said, to relay three key facts: that HPV causes almost all cervical cancer cases; that a Pap test does not always find abnormal cervical cells in precancerous stages; and that an HPV test, when used with the Pap in women over 30, helps doctors reduce the chance that patients will develop cervical cancer.

One of the magazine ads features five unsmiling women standing in front of this statement, in large type: "If you're a gambling woman, then getting just a Pap test is fine." Below that, in smaller type, are the facts about HPV.

Digene shares closed yesterday at $22.54, down 30 cents.

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