The nice thing about hepatitis C drugs is that the efficacy tends to translate really well from early to late-stage trials. Companies with active phase 1 compounds just need to run the larger trials to make sure there aren't any safety issues.
And therein lies the problem. Safety can't be an afterthought.
One patient doesn't prove causality. It's certainly possible that the patient would have suffered heart failure even if it wasn't on the drug. But Bristol did the right thing in stopping the trial to investigate further.
Unfortunately the right thing might kill BMS-986094's prospects even if it turns out the drug wasn't the cause. In my experience, investigations into the safety of a drug can take awhile; I'd expect something closer to a year than a month or two. A year is an eternity in the hepatitis C race.
Bristol-Myers has other hepatitis C drugs, including daclatasvir that has looked good to date. But with Gilead Sciences
The safety issue is good news for Gilead, Idenix Pharmaceuticals
My guess is that the problem probably won't extend to the other drugs -- it isn't even clear if there's a problem at all -- but let's wait for the safety data from a larger population before we get all excited.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Gilead Sciences and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.