May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Gilead Sciences Inc., the world’s biggest maker of AIDS drugs, is adding sales as more doctors prescribe antiviral medicines to patients at earlier stages of HIV infection, Chief Executive John Martin said in an interview.
Guidelines adopted by U.S. health officials last year calling for earlier treatment may be revised to recommend that therapy begin even sooner, as studies show the approach extends lives, Martin said today. Some doctors are already prescribing AIDS medicines sooner than recommended, Martin said.
Gilead’s three AIDS drugs, Atripla, Truvada and Viread, are used by 72 percent of the 565,000 U.S. patients diagnosed with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, according to the company. Sales of Foster City, California-based Gilead’s top-selling AIDS medicine Truvada rose 23 percent to $590.4 million in the first quarter, according to Bloomberg data. Deutsche Bank analyst Mark Schoenebaum said in an April 9 note to investors that a shift in physician guidelines in the U.S. could boost Gilead’s revenue 20 percent to 30 percent.
“Many of those patients who, by current guidelines, are too healthy for treatment are already being treated,” Martin said during today’s interview. “There is a gradual transition we are seeing that is already building our market and that we expect to continue.”
Doctors previously were reluctant to prescribe antivirals to patients until they were sicker because the side effects caused some patients to skip their medications, Martin said. Government guidelines “tend to catch up with the practice of medicine,” Martin said. “They are not necessarily a transforming event.”
Debate on Guidelines
Current U.S. guidelines recommend doctors begin treatment with antivirals when levels of an HIV-infected patient’s immune cells drop to 350 per milliliter of blood. Infectious disease doctors are considering whether treatment should begin even earlier in HIV patients with cell counts of 500 per milliliter or more, Martin said. A healthy person’s count of CD4 immune cells ranges from 800 to 1,200, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The inability of scientists to develop a vaccine to protect against HIV has raised interest in the idea of using antivirals in patients as a preventive measure to block infection or immediately after exposure, such as after unprotected sex, Martin said.
“It’s a fascinating topic that we’ve been involved with for a number of years,” Martin said, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. National Institutes of Health are conducting large studies involving 20,000 patients worldwide to determine if Gilead’s Truvada and Viread drugs may be effective in this way.
“It’s important to understand the degree of benefit to see if and how it should be used,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of excitement behind this.”
Gilead recently began two trials to test the effectiveness of its experimental four-in-one AIDS-drug pill. The company now markets Atripla, a three-in-one daily pill that includes Truvada, a dual-pill combination, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Sustiva. The so-called “quad pill,” if successful, would be made up of only Gilead’s AIDS drugs, including a new compound called elvitegravir.
um, because they get so many options that they need to diversify. no large cap execs buy their own stock - look around ans see. the only time they do that is if the stock tanks to nothing and they want to show some faith, so they buy 100k shares at 50 cents.
This is the first confirmation from management of the earlier treatment actually being measured in the prescription growth. We have heard various sell-side analysts speaking to this occurrence as a likely new favorable development, but now there is actual indications.
If this is an early indication of what the DB analyst projects to be a 20% - 30% revenue boast just from shifted physician practices, then there will soon occur a revaluation of GILD's share price.
Also, projections for 2010 revenue/earnings by the street overall do not, to my understanding, yet build in this major positive factor.