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Exclusive: Roche exploring sale of diabetes device unit

The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche is seen at the company's headquarters in Basel April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
The logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche is seen at the company's headquarters in Basel April 5, 2012. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG is exploring a sale of its blood glucose meters business, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday, as the industry grapples with increased competition and reimbursement pressure.

The discussions about a potential sale of the Roche unit are still in their early stages and a deal may not materialize, one of the people said.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it was cutting the reimbursement for diabetes test supplies by up to 72 percent. That would make it more difficult for companies to be profitable in this space, said another of the sources.

The change takes effect July 1.

It could not be learned how much the Roche unit was worth. All the sources wished to remain anonymous because the matter is not public. A Roche spokesman declined to comment.

Last year, Bayer AG, Germany's biggest drugmaker, attempted to sell its blood glucose meter business for around $1.5 billion, only to pull the plug on the sale early this year after failing to find sufficient buyer interest.

There are only a handful of companies that sell blood glucose meters, including Medtronic Inc and Johnson & Johnson, that would make logical buyers, two of the people said.

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel, Editing by Soyoung Kim)

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