This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Gilead, Abbott Unwrap Dueling Hep C Pill Data

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Gilead Sciences (GILD - Get Report) has drawn first blood from Abbott Labs (ABT - Get Report) (but just barely) in the battle for hepatitis C pill supremacy.

Twelve weeks of treatment with two Gilead drugs plus the immune system booster ribavirin yielded an interim cure rate of 100% in treatment-naive hepatitis C patients.

A 12-week regimen consisting of three Abbott drugs plus ribavirin demonstrated a final cure rate of 97% of treatment-naive hepatitis C patients and 93% of "null" responders -- the hardest-to-treat patients because they've failed previous therapy.

The score so far: Gilead 100%, Abbott 97%. Close, but Gilead wins, which means shares are likely to move significantly higher when trading opens Monday. The Gilead result is the "best case" scenario, said ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum in an email to clients.

Gilead shares closed Friday at $65.01.

The Abbott and Gilead regimens were not tested against each other in a single study, so declaring a winner and a loser isn't scientific or fair, necessarily. It's important, too, to note that Abbott's phase II study is larger and reported final cure rates after 12 weeks of follow-up. Gilead's phase II study enrolled fewer patients and cure rates are being reported after only four weeks of follow-up.

Wall Street investors are comparing the two sets of results directly against each other, nonetheless.

Hepatitis C researchers, with investors tagging along, are gathering in Boston at the Liver Meeting, the annual conference sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease. The most important data presentations over the next four days will focus on the race to develop new pills, which when used in various combinations, can replace the traditional injections long required to treat and cure hepatitis C.

The hepatitis C drug treatment market could grow to as much as $20 billion, some estimates claim, if more people with the viral liver disease seek cures with simpler and more effective all-oral therapies.

The new Abbott data announced Saturday come from a large, phase IIb study known as "AVIATOR" that was designed to assess the efficacy and safety of various combinations of oral hepatitis drugs in treatment-naive, genotype 1 hepatitis C patients as well as hard-to-treat null responders.

The Abbott drugs studied in AVIATOR were ABT-450, a protease inhibitor that requires blood-boosting with ritonavir; ABT-072, an NS5A inhibitor; and ABT-333, a "non-nuc" polymerase inhibitor. Ribavirin, a current backbone in hepatitis C treatment, was also included in some but not all of the combination regimens.

Gilead's results come from a large phase II study known as ELECTRON, testing two experimental pills, the nucleoside, or "nuc" polymerase inhibitor GS-7977 (also known as sofosbuvir) and GS-5885, an NS5A inhibitor, plus ribavirin. The study also enrolled treatment-naive, genotype 1 hepatitis C patients.

Gilead has already started phase III studies of its oral hepatitis C pill combinations. Positive results could lead to regulatory approval in 2014. Based on the results from AVIATOR, Abbott is moving forward into phase III studies with its three-drug regimen, with and without ribavirin.

In addition to efficacy, convenience may also play a role in which new hepatitis C regimen emerges as the winner. Gilead could have a slight edge because GS-7977 and GS-5885 are being coformulated into single pill taken once per day. With the addition of ribavirin, hepatitis C patients on the Gilead regimen would take two pills in the morning and one at night for 12 weeks.

Abbott's combination therapy requires patients to take more pills. With ribavirin added, hepatitis C patients would swallow four pills in the morning and two pills in the evening for 12 weeks.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX - Get Report), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Merck (MRK), Idenix Pharmaceuticals (IDIX) and Achillion Pharmaceuticals (ACGN) are also engaged in the race to develop new, combination-pill therapies against hepatitis C.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
IDIX $24.50 0.20%
ACHN $8.86 0.00%
ABT $49.08 0.00%
GILD $117.08 0.00%
VRTX $123.48 0.00%

Markets

DOW 17,619.51 +23.16 0.13%
S&P 500 2,063.11 +5.48 0.27%
NASDAQ 4,986.8670 +28.3990 0.57%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs