Big Liver Meeting in Barcelona

Big Liver Meeting in Barcelona

April 25th, 2012 // 12:20 pm @

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One of the biggest medical meetings – the European Association for the Study of the Liver – just ended in Barcelona, Spain, and the five-day event was closely watched thanks to hepatitis C. The affliction, you may recall, is one of the hottest growth areas for the pharmaceutical industry in the past year. The FDA approved new treatments from Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Merck (read here). And Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb shelled out billions to buy smaller players.

But which drugmakers generated the most buzz? Not surprisingly, there was something of a horse race between Gilead and Bristol-Myers, which have a joint venture and hope to be the first to market with an oral hepatitis C treatment. As the chart indicates, they dominated investor chatter on Facebook, Twitter and online that was picked up by Semantelli, a market research firm that tracks social media in the pharma world and provides us with a weekly buzz installment.

For those who were not following the Great Big Liver Show, though, Gilead and Bristol-Myers presented results showing a regimen of GS-7977, which Gilead acquired in its $11.9 billion purchase of Pharmasset, and Bristol-Myers’ daclatasvir offered impressive results in Phase II studies. The sustained viral response after four weeks was 100 percent for genotype 1 patients, and 91 percent for patients with genotypes 2 and 3. There was talk about their venture, since Gilead has not committed to Phase III, suggesting the biotech may swap one of its own formulations for daclatasvir.

If their results had not been so startling, Abbott Laboratories most likely would have generated a higher share of buzz. The drug and device maker reported results of a pair of Phase 2 studies: one revealed an 82 percent cure rate after 36 weeks and the other yielded more than 90 percent after 12 weeks. The different studies were cocktails blending different Abbott drugs, as well as ribavirin, an older drug used with many hepatitis C treatments.

The big loser at the meeting, though, was Vertex. The drugmaker’s first-in-class protease inhibitor, Incivek, pioneered treatment but, as Semantelli vp Siva Nadarajah notes, gave investors an outdated feel because a weekly injection of Interferon is required, something that the Gilead and Bristol-Myers medications do not require.


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