Shares of Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. soared Wednesday after the hepatitis C drug developer reported promising results from a mid-stage study of a potential treatment.
THE SPARK: The Cambridge, Mass., company said after the markets closed Tuesday that eight out of nine patients who took doses of the potential drug IDX184 along with two other established treatments showed no presence of hepatitis C in their blood a month after ending treatment.
The patients received either a 50-milligram or 100-milligram dose of IDX184 combined with ribavirin and pegylated interferon, an injectable drug that can leave patients with long-lasting flu-like symptoms.
Idenix CEO Ron Renaud said in a statement the partial results were encouraging. The company expects final results from the study to be out early next year.
Idenix aims to eventually phase out the use of interferon in favor of an all-oral treatment regimen.
THE BIG PICTURE: Idenix receives royalties on sales of the hepatitis B drug Tyzeka, which is marketed by Swiss drugmaker and Idenix shareholder Novartis AG. IDX184 is its most advanced drug in clinical development.
Hepatitis C is a virus that can lead to life-threatening liver damage and is the main cause of liver transplants in the United States. The disease is spread through the blood, and that can happen through sharing intravenous drug needles or having sex with an infected person.
The disease can be hard to detect and take years to manifest. Other drugmakers also are trying to develop an oral hepatitis C treatment that works without interferon. Analysts see these treatments as being potentially lucrative for drugmakers because they expect the virus to become a growing health problem.
Idenix says the virus infects three to four million people worldwide annually.
THE ANALYSIS: The results show a "very strong overall cure rate" for the group receiving treatment, Brean Murray Carret & Co. analyst Brian Skorney said in a research note.
"However, the absence of a control arm and information on baseline patient characteristics makes it difficult to compare to triple combo studies with other agents," Skorney wrote.
SHARE ACTION: Up $1.32, or 14.1 percent, to $10.69 in afternoon trading Wednesday. They are still down 30 percent from a 52-week high of $15.25 in mid-January.