NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc. advanced Thursday after the company reported positive data from an early clinical study for its experimental hepatitis C drug.
THE SPARK: The company said a single dose of the drug, called ACH-3102, was effective at reducing virus levels. It also said data from the two-week study showed the drug was safe.
Because of the success of the early study, Achillion is starting a 12-week mid-stage trial that combines ACH-3102 with ribavirin, an older hepatitis C medication.
THE BIG PICTURE: Hepatitis C has become a major area of drug research because it is a chronic illness and more cases are expected to be diagnosed as Baby Boomers age. Companies are racing to develop new and more convenient treatments.
Achillion, which is based in New Haven, Conn., is studying a variety of hepatitis C treatments. The most advanced is ACH-1625, or sovaprevir. Achillion is also testing sovaprevir in combination with ACH-3102.
THE ANALYSIS: Citi Investment Research analyst Yaron Werber said the data is "encouraging," and added that early data from the study of ACH-3102 and ribavirin trial should be available during the fourth quarter of 2012.
However, he had reservations about the drug. He said the 3102/ribavirin regimen is less convenient than others, including one being developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., because patients taking ACH-3102 and ribavirin would have to take multiple pills twice a day, and Gilead is working on a single-pill regimen.
Achillion's ACH-3102 and ribavirin would go on sale later than some other new hepatitis C therapies, including Gilead's, he said.
Still, Werber said the Achillion drugs may be able to compete on price.
SHARE ACTION: Shares of Achillion gained 98 cents, or 10 percent, to $10.47 in afternoon trading. The shares have traded between $3.81 and $12.95 in the last 12 months and are currently trading at their highest prices since early April.