Pharmasset is on a roll. The biotech ($VRUS) reported yesterday that all 40 hepatitis C patients receiving its closely-watched drug PSI-7977 were essentially cured in the course of the small 12-week study, offering another glimpse at what is shaping up as the next big step forward in treating hepatitis C.
Significantly, the study had set out to see just how little interferon would be needed for PSI-7977 to work against the virus. Investigators split the 40 patients into four groups. One group received no interferon while the other three groups received either four weeks, 8 weeks or 12 weeks of combined treatment. All patients were also treated with ribavirin, a standard therapy.
"Although patient numbers are small, we believe the results are extremely impressive," noted Wells Fargo Securities, according to a report in Bloomberg.
Pharmasset's shares, which have been rising swiftly this year, swelled an additional 8% early this morning as investors got a chance to look over fresh evidence that PSI-7977 could emerge from late-stage studies as the first interferon-free, oral hep C drug on the market.
"VRUS impressed a packed house of AASLD attendees by showing a 100% SVR rate in genotype 2/3 patients receiving PSI-7977 and ribavirin but no interferon," stated analysts at Brean Murray Carret. "We believe this validates the company's decision to move into Phase III program with this combination and supports a new front line standard of care in these patients. Given the substantially better safety profile, we believe it will be unethical to use interferon in untreated Gt. 2/3 patients once PSI-7977 is approved."