Gilead hep C cocktail cures a pocket of drug-resistant cases

Hepatitis C

Gilead has already provided a painless cure for the average hep C patient. Now they’re going after the final pocket of patients who are the toughest to treat.

The big biotech ($GILD) says that its triple cocktail--sofosbuvir/velpatasvir and the experimental GS-9857--proved to be 99% effective in treating genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 among patients who had failed a slate of currently available direct-acting antivirals. And it’s now being put through its paces in a late-stage program.

Altogether investigators treated 128 patients in mid-stage studies looking at the cocktail’s effect on patients who had failed NS5As, a variety of direct-acting antivirals or pegylated-interferon plus ribavarin and/or any direct-acting antiviral. They were treated for 12 weeks.

Gilead revolutionized the hep C world with Sovaldi and its combination drug Harvoni. AbbVie ($ABBV) and then Merck ($MRK) came along with their own rivals, providing some price relief to outraged payers who were stunned by the $1,000-per-pill rate that Sovaldi commanded.

But that hasn’t ended the R&D race. Patients who have already failed earlier attempts to cure the disease are among the toughest to treat. And there’s also considerable activity in shooting for an even faster cure that can be delivered at a lower cost. Gilead, which has thrived with the development of new HIV cocktails, clearly isn’t willing to leave a stone unturned in remaining competitive in hep C.

"Our study demonstrates that for HCV patients whose prior treatment has failed with the use of DAAs, this triple combination provides a high rate of sustained virologic response across HCV genotypes," said Dr. Eric Lawitz, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, and lead author of the study. "Furthermore, the study indicates that the treatment combination is generally safe and well tolerated by patients, providing a promising alternative for HCV sufferers who have limited re-treatment options.”