Abbott's interferon-free hep C combo wows in PhIIb test

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Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) made a late entry into the red-hot race to develop an interferon-free approach to hepatitis C. But after playing catch-up with the likes of Gilead ($GILD), it's now aiming for the inside track.

This morning Abbott reported that a trio of experimental therapies combined with ribavirin wiped out all traces of the virus among 99% of the patients taking the oral combo for 12 weeks. And it did the same for a stellar 93% of all null responders--hard-to-treat patients who had failed to respond to other therapies.

Abbott tested three therapies--ABT-450, ABT-267, ABT-333--along with ribavirin among 571 patients divided among several different groups in the Phase IIb study. And investigators for the company say that they're barreling ahead into Phase III to make a pivotal case for their approach. Abbott shares jumped more than 3% on the news.

ABT-450 was developed in collaboration with Enanta Pharmaceuticals, one of this year's Fierce 15 companies.  

"We feel this regimen is going to be bringing significant efficacy, safety and convenience benefits to patients," said Scott Brun, head of Abbott's virology development. Full results will be reviewed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease in Boston.

"Results from this Phase IIb study suggest that sustained virological response can be achieved without interferon in a high proportion of genotype-1 patients, including patients who have not responded to previous treatment," said Kris Kowdley, M.D., director of the Liver Center of Excellence in the Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia Mason Medical Center. "This is exciting news as we continue to study treatment options for patients."

They're going to have to beat some heavyweight competitors to live up to that boast. Gilead, Vertex ($VRTX), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Idenix ($IDIX) and others have promising hep C programs in place. 

- here's the press release
- read the Bloomberg report

Special Report: Enanta Pharmaceuticals – 2012 Fierce 15

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