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.