Winners, Losers From EASL Hep C Data Dump
Updated with new information, including comments from the CEO of Idenix Pharmaceuticals.
BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) finally released hepatitis C drug research abstracts Wednesday ahead of its closely followed conference in two weeks. But investors looking for clear winners and losers in the race to develop new all-oral hepatitis therapies came away disappointed.
As with all things hepatitis C, the EASL abstract "data dump" raised more questions than provided answers, in part because a lot of the data investors most wanted to see remains under wraps.
Still, Wall Street loves to make snap judgments, so Abbott(ABT) shares rose less than 1% to $61.60 on strong results from a small mid-stage study of a three-drug, all-oral regimen, which resulted in hepatitis C cure rates greater than 90%.
Abbott's gain was Gilead Science's (GILD) pain, causing the latter's shares to fall 2% to $47.13. Further hurting Gilead Wednesday was the absence of new data on GS-7977, the hepatitis C drug acquired in the $11 billion Pharmasset purchase. EASL chose not to make GS-7977 data available Tuesday, withholding for presentation at the meeting itself.
EASL also kept under wraps data from an important study combining Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMY) daclatasvir with Gilead's GS-7977. A Bristol spokesperson did confirm, however, that interim results tracking early cure rates from this study will be presented at the EASL meeting.
The biggest loser Wednesday appears to be Idenix Pharmaceuticals (IDIX) , with shares down 12% to $8.99 but not because of any new information released on its hepatitis C drugs. Instead, investors appear to be worried about the future of Idenix's lead drug IDX184 based on poor results released today on a similar drug being developed by Roche.
EASL's International Liver Congress is being held April 18-22.
More details on the hepatitis C research abstracts made public Wednesday:
Abbott: Today's results come from a phase II study of its own all-oral Hep C regimen consisting of protease inhibitor ABT-450, a ritonavir booster and the non-nuke polymerase inhibitor ABT-333. The study enrolled treatment naive genotype 1 patients as well as treatment-experienced non-responders. Patients were treated for 12 weeks.
In the treatment-naive patients, SVR12 or hepatitis C "cure" rates were 93% and 95% for the low- and high-dose arms, respectively. These are some of the strongest cure rates seen for new hepatitis C therapies, particularly for regimens that exclude injectable interferon. The high cure rates are even more impressive given that a majority of the patients enrolled were diagnosed with the more difficult-to-treat genotype 1A subtype.
In patients who failed to respond to previous treatment, the Abbott all-oral regimen resulted in a cure rate of 47%.
One looming concern about the Abbott hepatitis C regimen is convenience. As formulated now, patients must take one pill once per day and another two pills twice per day. For a relatively short treatment duration of 12 weeks, remembering to take a total of five pills per day may not be a problem, unless competing companies develop equally effective and simpler therapies.