When Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Now I'm a little worried.
The higher dose of VX-222 combined with telaprevir also failed to rid patients of their hepatitis C. Like the lower dose, this arm of the study was discontinued because of viral breakthrough -- the drug lowers the viral count, but then the virus finds a way around the drug and starts multiplying again.
Vertex is still testing the drug as part of a four-drug combination with telaprevir and Roche's Pegasys and Copegus at two different doses of VX-222. But the four-drug regimen isn't nearly as convenient as a two-drug regimen, especially given the annoying side effects of Pegasys and the fact that it has to be injected.
Now that the next-generation oral hepatitis C drugs -- telaprevir and Merck's
Vertex is also testing VX-222 in combination with telaprevir and Copegus. The three-drug all-oral combination would avoid Pegasys, but it's unclear whether adding Copegus will be enough to push the efficacy high enough. If it does work, Copegus is available as a generic, so Vertex could theoretically design a combined pill that contained all three drugs.
We'll know soon enough whether VX-222 has any antiviral activity. Interim data from both of the four-drug treatment arms are expected in the first quarter of next year. Investors will just have to be a little worried until then.
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