Vertex reports swift success with combo hep C treatment

Investigators working on Vertex's VX-222, a cocktail of hepatitis C treatments that includes its newly approved blockbuster Incivek as well as pegylated interferon, wiped out signs of the virus over a 12 to 24 week period.

The interim data demonstrated that half of the 30 patients in the study given a high dose of the therapy were able to stop treatment at the 12-week mark, with all signs of the virus wiped out in 93% of those patients. All signs of the virus in the remaining patients in the study were wiped out by week 24.

"The results from this study are the first to show the potential for a combination of multiple direct-acting antiviral medicines to help people with hepatitis C clear the virus with as few as 12 and no more than 24 weeks of treatment," said Robert Kauffman, chief medical officer of Vertex.

Vertex ($VRTX) has made it clear that it plans to advance new and better cocktail therapies for hepatitis C. But rivals in the field, including a team of investigators from Pharmasset and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), are intent on developing interferon-free hepatitis C drugs, which could leave them with a competitive advantage. Pharmasset launched a Phase II clinical trial of a combination of its nucleotide polymerase inhibitor PSI-7977 and Bristol-Myers' BMS-790052 last June.

Vertex went on to report that the interim safety results "showed that mild gastrointestinal symptoms and mild fatigue were the most frequently reported adverse events. Side effects consistent with the known safety profile of Incivek combination treatment also were observed."

- read the Vertex release
- check out the Benzinga article
- here's the Reuters story