Dear Valued Visitor,

We have noticed that you are using an ad blocker software.

Although advertisements on the web pages may degrade your experience, our business certainly depends on them and we can only keep providing you high-quality research based articles as long as we can display ads on our pages.

To view this article, you can disable your ad blocker and refresh this page or simply login.

We only allow registered users to use ad blockers. You can sign up for free by clicking here or you can login if you are already a member.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (VRTX), Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK): Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD) Races Against Competitors for an Oral Hepatitis-C Cure

The search for a hepatitis-C cure is one of the most active areas within biotechnology research and development.

One of the company’s ushering in the next generation of hepatitis-C treatment is Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD). The company acquired hepatitis-C drug sofosbuvir in its $11.2 billion acquisition of Pharmasset back in January 2012.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD)

Sonosbuvir has a very good chance of beating rival drugs to the market. Those competing drugs are being developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and AbbVie, the drug manufacturing giant that split off from Abbott Labs last winter.

Gilead’s hopes for first-to-market approval
In April, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) reported strong phase 3 trial data. Those positive results for sonosbuvir as a combination therapy with ribavirin for genotype 2 and 3 hepatitis-C patients prompted Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) to file for approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The filing also seeks approval for sonosbuvir combined with ribavirin and interferon for genotype 1 — the most common variant of the disease. The FDA granted Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD)’s application priority review in June.

However, the holy grail of hepatitis-C treatment is an interferon-free oral treatment alternative.

Developing such a solution will likely grab significant share in the $20 billion hepatitis-C treatment market because interferon comes with significant side effects and current non-oral treatments require injections, which many patients dread.

As a result of the opportunity, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) is studying 12- and 24-week dosing of oral sonosbuvir without interferon through its Ion 1 and Ion 2  trials.

If those trials work as hoped, doctors will likely make it a first line treatment, shifting use of current treatments from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX) and Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) to second tier status. Vertex’s Incivek — the fastest drug to reach $1 billion in sales after launching in May 2011 — and Merck’s Victrelis combined to generate $330 million in sales last quarter.

But that underestimates the true potential for an oral hepatitis-C treatment as many doctors are delaying treatment in hope of these new options. This suggests the first to market will see significant ramp in sales tied to pent-up demand.

Gilead’s competitors aren’t giving up
That’s not to say that Vertex and Merck are giving up on the market. Both are committing significant resources developing their own interferon-free choices.

Vertex hopes to follow up its highly successful Incivek with another all-oral option. However, the company’s VX-135 faced headwinds in late July when the FDA put a partial hold on a mid-stage trial of the drug due to toxicity concerns tied to the highest 400 mg dose. The trial is continuing for the lower 100 mg dose.

DOWNLOAD FREE REPORT: Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks

Let Warren Buffett, George Soros, Steve Cohen, and Daniel Loeb WORK FOR YOU.

If you want to beat the low cost index funds by 19 percentage points per year, look no further than our monthly newsletter.In this free report you can find an in-depth analysis of the performance of Warren Buffett's entire historical stock picks. We uncovered Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks and a way to for Buffett to improve his returns by more than 4 percentage points per year.

Bonus Biotech Stock Pick: You can also find a detailed bonus biotech stock pick that we expect to return more than 50% within 12 months.
Subscribe me to Insider Monkey's Free Daily Newsletter
This is a FREE report from Insider Monkey. Credit Card is NOT required.