Vertex (VRTX) has unveiled a fresh set of interim trial data supporting its quest to prove that telaprevir can significantly improve the cure rate of patients with hard-to-treat cases of hepatitis C--and go on to become a megablockbuster.
Interim Phase II data demonstrated sustained viral response rates of 55 percent to 90 percent in four patient groups which had previously failed to respond sufficiently to other therapies. A separate mid-stage trial involving telaprevir produced a 55 percent cure rate--when the virus can't be detected for 24 weeks after treatment--compared to 14 percent in the arm provided standard of care.
Vertex is running an ambitious Phase III program for telaprevir. TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein notes that late-stage data on "treatment-naive and treatment-failure hepatitis C patients are expected in the middle of next year." Schering-Plough has its own late-stage drug in Phase III for hepatitis C, but telaprevir appears to have the edge among hard-to-treat patients.
As Xconomy's Luke Timmerman notes this morning, a success in Phase III will position Vertex to introduce a first-in-class therapy that can change the standard of treatment for hepatitis C patients. Physicians can quickly make telaprevir a major blockbuster if it continues to demonstrate an ability to cut the duration of therapy for treatment-naive patients and double the cure rate when added to standard therapy. That kind of data could almost immediately gin $2.6 billion in annual sales, according to Cowen & Co.