Hep C pill race report 2012: Gilead, others rush toward pharma gold
This wasn't news to Vertex. Along with a bevy of competitors, the pharma company has hurried to advance interferon-sparing treatments for a while. If the all-oral therapies now in development hit the market as expected within the next couple of years, sales of interferon-based treatments are in big trouble. Vertex knows this. Merck ($MRK), which markets the rival hep C drug Victrelis, knows this. Both companies are hustling to develop all-oral approaches to fighting the disease.
"Obviously, we're moving as fast as we possibly can," Dr. Robert Kauffman, Vertex's chief medical officer, said in an interview with FierceBiotech. He also noted: "The news is that the field is changing rapidly; all-oral regimens look to be on the horizon."
The evolution of hepatitis C treatment threatens to leave today's dominant companies with fossilized offerings. Vertex and Merck have the state-of-the-art approved drugs against the virus, but both companies are chasing after Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) and others with programs that could be the first to win market approval with pill-only options.
There's no cozy position in the hep C race, however. The all-oral cocktails are largely unproven and in need of confirmation in fully baked pivotal studies, and that keeps the contest wide open for a number of contenders, Vertex included.