May 17, 2005
This is an update on the earlier story about VX-950. I’ve put it up here because it gives a bit of a different perspective.
I love the part where Boger says, “We believe it will take weeks or months to defeat the virus…” and then he contrasts it to the current full year of treatment.
Also, be sure to note that they are claiming this drug has none of the negative side effects of current therapy. Hooray!
Vertex says drug quickly treats hepatitis C
(Adds details on virus returning in 5 patients, share price)
By Ransdell Pierson
NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) – Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Tuesday said half of hepatitis C patients taking a specific dose of its experimental drug in an early-stage trial tested negative for the virus 14 days after beginning treatment, a speed unmatched by any existing medicine.
The tiny U.S. biotechnology company said the patients received a 750-milligram dose of its medicine, called VX-950, every eight hours during the two-week Phase 1 trial.
Results of the 34-patient study, which was conducted among patients with the hardest-to-treat genotype 1 strain of the virus, were presented at the annual Digestive Disease Week scientific meeting being held in Chicago.
“The big surprise is that half of patients in 14 days in this drug group went below levels of virus detection,” Vertex Chief Executive Officer Joshua Boger told Reuters.
By contrast, he said current two-drug treatments typically must be taken for three months before half of patients reach undetectable levels of the virus. They must then be taken another nine months to make sure the virus does not re-emerge.
“Our drug by itself appears to be dropping the virus to undetectable levels dramatically quicker than standard combination treatments,” Boger said, and without the flu-like side effects or other problems seen with existing medicines.
Another patient in the Vertex-sponsored trial also tested negative for the virus after receiving a different dose of VX-950.
The virus returned to detectable levels in five patients a month after the Vertex trial concluded, but virus levels remained more than 90 percent below original levels in two of them, the company said.
Boger said he is hopeful longer treatment in larger future trials will prevent the virus from re-emerging after it is knocked down.
Consequently, he said several Phase 2 trials that could begin late this year will last one to three months, testing the drug by itself and with at least one interferon used in current combo treatments, sold by Schering-Plough Corp. and Roche Holding AG.
“We believe it will take weeks or months to defeat the virus, and we’ll conduct the studies to find out,” said Boger, who noted that standard treatments last almost a full year.
Shares of Vertex closed up 22 cents, or 1.7 percent, at $13.20 on the Nasdaq.