Halting the Hepatitis C virus: Pharmasset drug shines in clinical trials

The hepatitis C drug market is heating up once again as development firm Pharmasset announces study results showing a 100% success rate for its clinical-stage antiviral candidate.

The results, which were presented at a medical conference this weekend, have caused a jump in the company’s stock, as well as an increase in speculation on the drug’s sales potential once it reaches the market.

Treatment options for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have been fairly stagnant in recent years, with the need for new therapies in high demand; however, the market started to sizzle earlier this year when two new drugs hit the market: Merck’s Victrelis and Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ Incivek. Both drugs are cocktail therapies used in concert with the traditional HCV treatment protocol of ribavarin (an oral generic pharmaceutical) and interferon (an injectable therapy).

Pharmasset’s drug, for now simply known as PSI-7977, is also a cocktail therapy. However, the newest trial results differentiate the drug as having a higher cure rate than either Victrelis or Incivek. In addition, PSI-7977 is being investigated for combination treatment with ribavarin alone, which if successful would provide a non-injection treatment protocol (with fewer side effects) for the disease.

The number of new drugs and candidates nearing commercialization for hepatitis C is pretty amazing when considering the lack of treatment options in earlier years. Additional HCV therapies are under development by Inhibitex, Achillion, Vertex, Roche, and Abbott Labs. All of the candidates, including Pharmasset’s drug, won’t hit the market until 2013 or later.

By adding more competitive treatment options to the market, the cure rates should continue to climb — meaning fewer potentially fatal HCV-related liver disease cases in the US and abroad — while treatment protocols ideally become cheaper and less invasive.

Anne Law

Anne Law has been a member of the D&B editorial department for more than a decade, providing content for the Hoover's and First Research products. She currently covers the health care and insurance industries for First Research. For industry news, follow Anne on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Great article, Anne! Fantastic news on the Hep-C front

  2. Ed Benti says:

    Great article except 7 months later ANY drug trials with Pharmasset’s PSI 7977seem to have have gone silent and those of us in the 4 million plus strong liver disease community are wondering why. Expectations were fantastic, then Pharmasset was bought by Gilead and ….nothing. Silence. Nada. People are dying folks. Time to get going on this. But since Gilead paid $11 billion for a tiny company with 80 employees I suppose they can sit on the patent all they want. Who are we to cry foul.

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