The data dump at this week's European Association for the Study of Liver Disease for hepatitis C drugs is nothing short of amazing. Early data suggests the drugs are working really well without the need for Merck's
GS-7977 plus ribavirin looked good in multiple studies. Between 59% and 88% of patients had early cure rates. Good thing, since it paid $11 billion for Pharmasset, mainly for this drug. (Nasdaq: GILD)
- GS-7977 worked even better in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb's
daclatasvir, with early cure rates between 91% and 100%, depending on the strain of virus. (NYSE: BMY)
- Daclatasvir plus another Bristol drug, asunaprevir, hit a 77% cure rate, but that isn't too shabby, since it was in difficult-to-treat patients and was measured 24 weeks after treatment. The early cure rates -- measured four weeks after treatment -- in the GS-7977 trials are preliminary and will probably come down a little.
- Don't forget about Abbott Labs
. The company doesn't get as much press -- not making acquisitions will do that -- but combining two of its drugs with ribavirin resulted in an 82% cure rate 36 weeks after treatment. Another combination looked even better, with cure rates between 93% and 95%, although that was only after 12 weeks of treatment. (NYSE: ABT)
No doubt, those are rule-breaking results. Add a few more drugs to the cocktail, and we might have long-term cure rates approaching 100%.
But investors should keep in mind that these are only phase 2 studies. The drugs still have to go through the final stage of clinical trials before they can go in front of the FDA. With hepatitis C drugs, efficacy data typically translates well from phase 2 to phase 3. The bigger risk is that side effects might crop up when the drugs are tested in a larger population. Data from one of the Abbott trials, for instance, was based on a whopping 11 patients.
The trials will also take some time to complete. Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Enjoy the data party; just realize revenue from the drugs is a way away and still not guaranteed.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Gilead Sciences. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't 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.