I'm a little surprised by the 11% gain in Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Telaprevir was able to cure 75% of patients when added to the standard of care for 12 weeks, followed by standard of care for an additional 12 or 36 weeks. The standard of care -- Roche's Pegasys plus ribavirin for 48 weeks -- cured just 44% of the patients. The trial also tested the use of the drug for just eight weeks, but the lower cure rate of 69% means most patients would likely use it for 12 weeks.
Seventy-five percent is a lot better than 44%, and it's great that telaprevir cuts the time that many patients have to be on Pegasys. About 70% of those cured were able to stop Pegasys after just 12 additional weeks, which is a great selling point considering Pegasys' side effects. But a 75% cure rate isn't out-of-this-world good. A phase 2 trial run by Vertex's partner, Johnson & Johnson
Maybe the increase today is just a relief rally that something really bad didn't happen. In fact, the rash that telaprevir caused in other studies seems to be nearly nonexistent in the larger phase 3 study; just 1.4% of patients taking telaprevir for 12 weeks dropped out of the study because of it -- half the level in the J&J trial.
Coming up, we'll get two more phase 3 results for telaprevir next quarter, including one for patients who previously failed treatment. Results from Merck's
The 75% cure rate sets the bar for Merck and companies such as Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor selection, and Motley Fool Options recommended buying calls on the stock. The Fool has a disclosure policy.