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Pharmasset to Challenge Vertex Hepatitis C Treatment, BMO Says
By Naomi Kresge - Mar 8, 2011
Pharmasset Inc. (VRUS)'s experimental hepatitis C therapies may pose a challenge to treatments from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX), based on trial results to be released in late March, BMO Capital Markets Corp. analysts said.
Two drugs from Pharmasset showed "impressive" figures as stand-alone medications or combination therapies, while results from a two-drug combination from Vertex weren't good enough to justify more patient studies, the analysts, led by Jason Zhang in Montreal, wrote in a research report to investors yesterday, citing abstracts of the trials.
The Vertex trial combined its drug telaprevir, due for U.S. regulatory review on May 23, with experimental drug VX-222, Zhang wrote. The Pharmasset trials combined two experimental therapies, PSI-7977 and PSI-938, with standard therapies or with each other. Zhang lowered his recommendation on Vertex's stock from "outperform" to "market perform," saying that investors already expect telaprevir to be approved.
"The hepatitis C treatment landscape subsequent to the initial phase of telaprevir dominance is tilting away from Vertex to companies such as Pharmasset that have potent combinations," Zhang wrote.
Vertex fell as much as 5.1 percent to $47.07 and was down 5 percent in Nasdaq trading as of 9:53 a.m. in New York. That pared the stock's gain this year to 35 percent, valuing the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company at $9.64 billion. Princeton, New Jersey-based Pharmasset jumped as much as 7.3 percent to $66.48 and was up 4 percent.
Telaprevir may generate $1.9 billion in revenue in 2012, according to BMO's estimates.
The trials were summarized in abstracts released yesterday by the European Association for the Study of the Liver. Though published online, the data are under a press embargo until the conference, which starts on March 30 in Berlin.
To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Kresge in Berlin at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at
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