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Slow Growth Seen in Hepatitis C Market
  Jefferies Sees Slower Than Expected Growth in the Hepatitis C Drug Market
February 28, 2008: 01:18 PM EST
NEW YORK (Associated Press) - The market for oral hepatitis C treatments could be smaller than Wall Street expects, according to Jefferies & Co., possibly leaving sales forecasts too high.
Analyst Eun K. Yang, following a discussion with experts, said the market will likely increase between 20 percent and 30 percent through 2015. There are currently about 80,000 patients being treated in the U.S.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the HCV virus and is spread though direct contact with the blood of an infected person.
Specifically, Yang said, the market potential for oral therapies is about $2 billion between 2011 and 2015, and $9 billion after 2015, in a best case scenario. The market will initially be modest, she said, citing side effects of current sexually transmitted disease treatments, an aging hepatitis population, co-morbidity rates with conditions such as HIV, and patient motivation for treatment.
"Long-term, larger potential for oral antivirals is likely to occur in 2015 or beyond," she said. "This market potential will depend on the availability of a combination of two to three oral antivirals demonstrating a high success rate."
Meanwhile, most products are in early development and the competitive outlook is still very fluid, she added.
One exception is Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., which plans on starting a late-stage study for its hepatitis C drug candidate telaprevir in March, with its partner Johnson & Johnson. Vertex shares fell 19 cents to $18.43, while Johnson & Johnson shares fell 52 cents to $62.52.
Vertex could face competition from Kenilworth, N.J.-based Schering-Plough Corp., which is conducting midstage studies on its oral treatment boceprevir and already sells the injectible treatment Pegintron. Schering shares fell 43 cents to $21.67.
Brisbane, Calif.-based InterMune Inc., working with Roche, is developing ITMN-191 as a hepatitis C treatment. Its stock fell 10 cents to $14.36.
Other companies developing hepatitis C treatments include Human Genome Sciences Inc., Rockville, Md.-based Human Genome Sciences Inc., and Cambridge, Mass.-based Idera Pharmaceuticals Inc.
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