Vertex hepatitis C drug OK'd, promising more cures

Reuters, Tuesday 24 May 2011

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc's highly anticipated hepatitis C drug won U.S. approval, promising far higher cure rates for the liver-destroying disease

Incivek, a pill also known as telaprevir, is poised to help transform treatment of hepatitis C by nearly doubling the chances of curing the serious liver disease compared with current standard treatments. Some industry analysts project Incivek sales will top $5 billion a year.

Vertex set a wholesale price of $49,200 for a 12-week regimen of Incivek, which works in combination with current standard drugs pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The older treatments are then continued for as few as another 12 weeks.

Merck's recently approved Victrelis has a wholesale price of $1,100 per week, or between $26,400 and $48,400 for a course of treatment, depending on needed duration.

The approval, which the Food and Drug Administration announced on Monday, was widely expected after an advisory panel unanimously recommended the drug last month.

In clinical studies, as many as 79 percent of patients taking Incivek experienced a sustained virologic response -- which is tantamount to a cure. Older drugs cure only about 40 percent of patients.

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