Vertex’s Telaprevir Passes Test in Tough-To-Treat Hepatitis C Patients
Vertex’s telaprevir is starting to stand the test of time. The experimental drug for hepatitis C is showing today that it can cure about half of the patients who failed to respond to standard treatments. That’s about triple the cure rate for patients who tried a second round of the existing drugs.
The latest findings were reported today from a study called Prove 3, at the European Association for the Study of the Liver meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. The study found that 51 percent of patients who took telaprevir in combination with standard drugs for six months were cured and 52 percent were cured by staying on the drug for almost a full year, researchers said. That compares with 14 percent, who were cured with a second round of the standard treatment—pegylated interferon alpha and ribavirin for almost a year.
These numbers are consistent with what Vertex reported in earlier peeks at their data, starting back in June and again in November at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease. This study included just 115 patients, so the findings will have to be confirmed in ongoing pivotal stage trials before Vertex, which is based in Cambridge, MA and has significant operations in San Diego, can win permission from U.S. and European regulators to market the drug. But analysts are sure to get fired up in anticipation of that happening. An estimated 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have chronic hepatitis C infections, and about 650,000 showed no improvement with the standard treatment. Telaprevir holds promise because it has shown a greater ability to cure patients of the virus, and it can cut the treatment time in half. That’s significant because standard drugs for hepatitis C cause flu-like symptoms that patients have to endure.
It means Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) could generate $2.6 billion in U.S. sales in 2013 when factoring in patients who failed treatment and those who are new to therapy, according to Rachel McMinn, an analyst with Cowen & Co. in San Francisco.
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