Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) is starting the week off on the right foot. Shares of the biotech titan are indicated to rise around 10% this morning following a Saturday press release detailing interim phase 2 results of its combination therapy targeting hepatitis C. The news release came in the middle of The Liver Meeting 2012, a medical conference sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) also released additional data for its developmental hepatitis C treatment during the meetings.
Gilead's all-oral regimen includes two new drugs, GS-7977 and GS-5885, along with existing anti-viral medication ribavirin. At the four-week mark following a 12-week course of treatment, Gilead reported a cure rate of 100% for treatment-naive patients (those not receiving previous treatment for the disease). While not apples-to-apples, Gilead's data bested a 12-week cure rate of 97% for an all-oral regimen from Abbott Labs consisting of three drugs alongside ribavirin. Both companies are moving forward with phase 3 trials, with Gilead's already under way and Abbott beginning patient recruitment.
The results from both companies are staggering when compared to existing treatment options for the disease. Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX) showed a 79% cure rate in phase 3 trials for its hepatitis C drug Incivek, in which the course of treatment is longer and requires patients to endure the nasty side effects of interferon injections. If successful in phase 3 trials, both treatments are likely to become blockbuster players in a market estimated to exceed $15 billion. However, Gilead's combination has the edge in terms of convenience, requiring patients to take fewer pills over the 12-week course of treatment.