* High cure rates seen in patients treated 8 or 12 weeks
* 93 pct who failed prior drugs cured after 12 weeks
* 97 pct of newly treated patients deemed cured after 12
* One percent discontinue treatment due to side effects
(Adds 100 pct cure rates with Gilead drug in small trial)
By Ransdell Pierson
Nov 10 A trio of oral medicines from Abbott
Laboratories Inc to treat hepatitis C produced
unprecedented cure rates in patients who had failed to benefit
from standard treatment, as well as very high cure rates for
newly treated patients, Abbott said on Saturday.
Detailed data from the mid-stage trial, called Aviator, were
released Saturday at the annual meeting of the American
Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) in Boston.
Investors and patients have very high hopes for the Abbott
drugs - a protease inhibitor called ABT-450, a polymerase
inhibitor ABT-333 and ABT-267 from a class known as NS5A
inhibitors. They are used without interferon, an injectable
standard treatment that causes flu-like symptoms.
Abbott said it plans to move ahead with large Phase III
studies of the three drugs, used either with or without the
standard antiviral pill ribavirin, based on favorable results
seen in patients treated for eight weeks or twelve weeks in the
Aviator study. Patients in the study had the most common, and
hardest-to-treat, strain of hepatitis C known as Genotype 1.
Some 93 percent of patients who failed prior therapy had a
sustained virologic response (SVR), meaning they were considered
cured, after 12 weeks of taking the trio of new drugs, plus
"Nobody anywhere has broken the 50 percent mark in (cure
rates) for this population," Scott Brun, a senior Abbott
research executive said in an interview. "These are robust
Abbott said it aims to be the first company to market an
interferon-free regimen to patients with Genotype 1 infections.
Four of 448 patients in the study discontinued treatment due
to adverse events, a dropout rate that Abbott said suggested the
medicines were very well tolerated.
About 97 percent of previously untreated patients were
considered cured after 12 weeks of treatment with the three
Abbott drugs, plus ribavirin. Moreover, similarly impressive
cure rates were seen among patients taking the three drugs, plus
ribavirin, for 8 weeks.
Without ribavirin, 87 percent of previously untreated
patients were considered cured after 12 weeks on Abbott's three
drugs, Abbott said.
Rival drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc stole a bit of
Abbott's thunder on Saturday by releasing data showing a 100
percent cure rate among previously untreated genotype 1 patients
who took only two of its oral treatments, plus ribavirin, for 12
A pair of new hepatitis C drugs approved last year, Vertex
Pharmaceuticals Inc's Incivek and Merck & Co's
Victrelis, significantly boosted cure rates and cut treatment
duration to as low as 24 weeks for some patients. But the
protease inhibitors must still be taken with interferon, an
injected drug that often causes severe flu-like symptoms that
lead many hepatitis patients to delay or discontinue treatment.
Gilead, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Vertex are racing
to develop interferon-free treatment regimens. They are expected
to become blockbuster products, if approved, because of their
far shorter treatment times and better cure rates, compared with
existing drug regimens.
Many analysts view Gilead as current leader both on timing
and perceived advantages of its experimental hepatitis C
An estimated 3 million Americans are believed infected with
the virus, which quietly damages the liver over years or decades
and is the biggest reason for liver transplants in the United
States. Abbott said as many as 170 million people worldwide are
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Vicki Allen and