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Achillion's HCV Pipeline Progresses
Recently, Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ACHN: 3.01 +0.05 +1.69%) announced that it has started dosing patients in a randomized, double-blind mid-stage study (n∼120) that will evaluate pipeline candidate ACH-1625. The candidate is being developed to treat patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).
The placebo-controlled phase IIa study, to be conducted in the United States and Europe, will evaluate the safety, tolerability and antiviral activity of the HCV candidate as a combination therapy. Specifically, ACH-1625 (an oral candidate) will be evaluated in conjunction with pegylated interferon alfa-2a and ribavirin after 4 and 12 weeks of dosing in patients infected with chronic HCV genotype 1. While results from the 4 week study are expected in the first quarter of 2011, the 12 week study results are anticipated by the end of 2011.
ACH-1625, a HCV inhibitor molecule which has fared well in earlier studies, is an important candidate for Achillion. The candidate, on successful development and commercialization, will target the highly lucrative HCV market with a huge unmet need.
HCV infection is estimated to affect more than 170 million people across the globe. Moreover, according to estimates released by the American Association of Liver Disease, approximately 80% individuals are chronically infected by the infection following exposure. Furthermore, chronic HCV can have serious consequences and might even prove to be fatal on being left untreated.
However, even if the company's HCV candidate manages to navigate through the clinical and regulatory hurdles, it will face tough competition in the hepatitis C market. This market has big players like Merck (MRK: 36.52 -0.08 -0.22%) and Roche (RHHBY: 0.00 N/A N/A). Moreover, companies like Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX: 25.87 +0.12 +0.47%), ZymoGenetics Inc. (ZGEN: 9.74 +0.01 +0.10%), which will be taken over by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY: 26.73 -0.55 -2.02%), are also developing treatments to combat HCV infection.
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