Telaprevir study emphasizes need for hep C cocktails

Given by itself, Vertex's hepatitis C protease inhibitor telaprevir delivers a knockout punch to unmutated forms of the virus, according to a new review of the trial data by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. As much as 20 percent of the swarm of viral particles created by hepatitis C becomes resistant to the experimental therapy in only two days.

"That's the most rapid drug resistance for any agent that's ever been observed," said Los Alamos scientist Alan Perelson in a Bloomberg report.

That conclusion, though, wasn't a surprise to anyone at Vertex, which doesn't anticipate using the therapy alone. In a race to the FDA with Merck--which is advancing another protease inhibitor dubbed boceprevir--both companies anticipate mixing their therapies into a new cocktail including the generic antivirals ribavirin and alpha interferon. That standard therapy presents a real dilemma for many hepatitis C patients, who either often fail to respond or can't stomach the side effects.

"For all direct-acting antivirals against hepatitis C, resistance is likely to develop fairly quickly," Vertex CMO Robert Kauffman tells Bloomberg. "The solution to that problem is a cocktail."

- here's the article from Bloomberg