GlaxoSmithKline has won an FDA approval to market Promacta to hepatitis C patients whose low blood platelet counts prevent them from taking interferon, a commonly used treatment linked to a host of side effects. The approval marks a positive step for GSK ($GSK), which cited this R&D program as one of its most promising in the late-stage pipeline. And it significantly boosted shares of Ligand Pharmaceuticals ($LGND), which licensed the thrombocytopenia therapy to GSK back in 2008.
"This is a tremendous achievement for this field of medicine. Otherwise very sick patients, who had little to no therapeutic options, will now have an opportunity to potentially receive treatment for hepatitis C. We commend GSK's Promacta team, and particularly Drs. Arning, Amado and Paoletti, for their leadership and commitment to driving Promacta to this regulatory success," said Ligand CEO John Higgins.
Ligand shares shot up 14% on the news, which opens the door to a new stream of royalties for the biotech. About 3.5% of hep C patients suffer from low blood platelet counts, which prevented them from taking interferon.
Interferon is a remarkably effective hepatitis C therapy, but a large percentage of patients can't take the flu symptoms and related side effects. As a result, a number of developers like Gilead ($GILD) and Abbott ($ABT) and Vertex ($VRTX) and others are avidly pushing experimental therapies through the clinic that are designed to do away with interferon altogether--a trend that is likely to influence just how long this new indication can pan out for Ligand and GSK.
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- here's the story from Bloomberg
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