It just keeps getting better.
Not only does adding Vertex Pharmaceuticals'
In a phase 3 trial dubbed Illuminate, Vertex compared 24 weeks of treatment with the current standard of 48 weeks. For patients who had undetectable levels of the hepatitis C virus early in treatment -- after four weeks and 12 weeks of treatment -- 92% of them were cured after 24 weeks of treatment compared to 88% cured after taking a full course of 48 weeks.
Cutting the time on the standard of care is a big deal because Roche's Pegasys and Merck's
Merck, which is developing competing hepatitis C treatment boceprevir, also tried the same trick of separating out early responders. But Schering-Plough, which owned the drug before Merck bought the company, set up its trial to treat the early responders for 28 weeks, a month longer than Vertex treated its. Merck hasn't broken out the data for just early responders yet, but the cure rate for those who got response-guided therapy was 63%, lower than the 72% for all the patients taking telaprevir.
Vertex has one more phase 3 trial to report about patients who have failed prior hepatitis C treatment. Assuming that trial goes as well as the first two -- first results are expected next month -- Vertex and marketing partner Johnson & Johnson
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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection, and Motley Fool Options recommended buying calls on the stock. The Fool has a disclosure policy.