Grading Hep C Stocks Exiting EASL Confab
At the same time, Gilead issued a press release containing preliminary data from QUANTUM, an ongoing study in treatment-naive patients also using the GS-7977 plus ribavirin combination therapy. The SVR4 rate in this study was 59%, lower than ELECTRON due to enrollment of more difficult-to-treat patients.
Results from the ELECTRON AND QUANTUM studies of GS-7977 were important but not the star of EASL. What got everyone really excited were data from the mid-stage study combining GS-7977 with Bristol-Myer Squibb's(BMY) NS5A replication complex inhibitor daclatasvir. Among the patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C, GS-7977 plus daclatasvir resulted in an SVR4 rate of 100%. Yes, the combination therapy cured all treated patients. These data literally elicited high fives from several of the generally reserved hedge fund analysts in attendance. It's hard to argue with an SVR4 of 100%, but longer-term follow-up data are needed to confirm these results. Physicians traditionally use SVR12 (12 weeks) or SVR24 (24 weeks) as a final indication of cure, although recent data show a strong correlation between SVR4 and later follow up assessments.
As if that weren't enough excitement, Gilead also generated some drama at the meeting -- and elicited a "patients-not-profits" rebuke from my colleague Adam Feuerstein -- when word got out that the company had refused an offer from Bristol-Myers to collaborate on further development of GS-7977 and daclatasvir. Although Gilead insists it hasn't made a final decision, I'm guessing management will try to combine GS-7977 with GS-5885, an early-stage drug candidate in the same NS5A class as daclatasvir. Obviously, Gilead wants to keep all the profits from a highly potent, all-oral hepatitis C therapy for itself.
In GS-7977, Gilead appears to control a strong, future "backbone" for any next-generation hepatitis C regimen. I have mixed feelings about Gilead's apparent desire to deny Bristol-Myers access to the drug and therefore prevent a daclatasvir-GS-7977 regimen from reaching the market. Patients and their advocates will probably be justifiably upset that such this apparently highly effective regimen won't be developed further. I understand that. Interestingly, physicians I spoke with at the meeting didn't care either way. That surprised me; I would have expected more complaints.