People with hepatitis-C and those who carry the virus without even realizing it — you have a reason to celebrate this weekend.
Hepatitis-C is a contagious virus that attacks the liver and can be found in acute or chronic forms. In nearly all instances, acute cases of hepatitis-C lead to a chronic form of the condition, which can cause cirrhosis of the liver and possibly even liver cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3.2 million people in the U.S. (about 1% of the population) are estimated to have a chronic version of the hepatitis-C virus, which is known as one of the silent killers because many of its symptoms go undetected. To put things mildly, it’s a serious disease currently commanding a lot of attention from researchers.
That attention manifested itself into the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT)‘ first-ever hepatitis-C genotyping test on Thursday. Known as the Realtime HCV Genotype II, this fully automated test is capable of examining patients’ blood to determine which specific genotype of the HCV virus is present out of the 11 known subtypes. Since different medications work better on certain genotypes, Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT)’s Realtime HCV Genotype II test is going to revolutionize the speed of, and personalization, of hepatitis-C care.
Abbott’s perfect timing
This approval from Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) also comes on the heels of some fantastic new opportunities with regard to how hepatitis-C patients are treated.
The current standard of treatment approved by the FDA is Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX)‘ Incivek, which is administered through an IV with interferon. While relatively effective, interferon can cause lingering flu-like symptoms in patients for up to 48 weeks, which can make the side-effects of the medication as unpleasant as the chronic HCV disease is itself. However, new drugs are currently in the works which could change all that.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV) have the two most-advanced all oral hepatitis-C medications, which could revolutionize patient care.
I’ve been stating for months that Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD)’s sofosbuvir has blockbuster potential written all over it. In its four late-stage clinical trials, sofosbuvir performed considerably better than the placebo in every instance. Delivering an impressive sustained viral response (SVR) of 90% in genotype 1 patients, the drug, when combined with a ribavirin, was also very effective at knocking out detectable levels of the virus in genotype 2 and 3 patients after a 12-week treatment course. Currently under review by the FDA, sofosbuvir may find dual success as a stand-alone compound and as a combination therapy.