BEAVERTON, Ore., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Epitope, Inc. (Nasdaq: EPTO) today announced that its OraSure oral specimen collection device has been approved for cotinine testing of life insurance applicants in Japan. Epitope also announced that it had received its first order for OraSure devices to be used in Japan for cotinine testing. Cotinine is a nicotine derivative that indicates whether the subject is a smoker. The Finance Ministry of Japan announced last week that it would permit life insurance companies to charge lower premiums for nonsmokers and approved the use of the OraSure device to test applicants for cotinine. The Finance Ministry also stated that it had approved applications by two life insurance companies to reduce premiums for new nonsmoker policies by as much as 30 percent. "We are pleased that OraSure has been approved for cotinine testing in the important Japanese life insurance market," said John W. Morgan, president and chief executive officer of Epitope. "Less than 10 percent of new life insurance applicants in Japan currently receive any type of testing. We expect that the advent of nonsmoker premiums will dramatically increase the extent of testing in Japan." The initial order for 20,000 OraSure devices was received through Epitope's Tokyo-based joint venture partner, Epitope KK. The OraSure devices will be used for testing applicants beginning March 2, 1998. While nonsmoker policies have been available in the United States since the mid-1960s, in Japan the introduction of such policies has been delayed on the grounds that no link had been established between smoking and death rates. The recent deregulation of the insurance market in Japan has led insurance companies to develop new premium schedules that reflect applicant risks, including smoking. In 1996, the life insurance market in Japan was served by 44 companies which sold approximately 35 million policies. More than one-third of these policies were new ordinary life policies. Applicants for ordinary life policies are the most likely to be tested for smoking and other risk factors. Epitope, Inc., is an Oregon based corporation that develops and markets medical diagnostic products. Its principal products, including the OraSure oral specimen collection device, focus on the use of oral fluid to detect HIV infection and other conditions, and are marketed primarily in the life insurance and public health sectors.
Source: EPITOPE Inc.
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