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The hepatitis C space is starting to look a lot like a soap opera with all the canoodling going on.
First Pharmasset (Nasdaq: VRUS ) , which is being purchased by Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD ) , partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ) to test Pharmasset's PSI-7977 with Bristol's daclatasvir. Then Pharmasset started testing PSI-7977 with TMC435 from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) .
And now, Bristol-Myers and Johnson & Johnson are hooking up. And you'll never guess which two molecules they're planning on testing together: daclatasvir and TMC435, the same ones that are being tested individually with Pharmasset's drug. Bristol-Myers and Johnson & Johnson plan to test the two drugs on their own and in combination with one or both parts of the current standard of treatment, ribavirin and pegylated-interferon sold by Merck (NYSE: MRK ) and Roche.
Cocktails of multiple oral drugs are the future of hepatitis C treatment. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if the companies wait and see how the data from the three individual pairs turns out before trying to work out the details of what a three-way partnership would look like.
The fact that Pharmasset, Bristol, and Johnson & Johnson are so hot on each others' drugs doesn't bode well for others developing hepatitis C drugs, such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX ) and Inhibitex (Nasdaq: INHX ) .
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