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Vertex hepatitis drug beats forecasts

Xconomy.Com / July 29, 2011

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Vertex Pharmaceuticals is off to a running start with its new hepatitis C drug. The Cambridge company said yesterday that it generated $74.5 million in sales of telaprevir in the quarter that ended June 30. That’s an especially big number as far as pharmaceutical rollouts go; Wall Street analysts were expecting about $31 million.

The drug was first cleared for sale by the Food and Drug Administration on May 23.

The product has shown in clinical trials that when it is added to a couple of standard treatments, it can double the cure rate to about 80 percent of patients, while cutting the course of treatment in half, to about six months.

Vertex’s drug, along with a competitor from Merck & Co., has created new demand for treatment among the estimated 3 million Americans with hepatitis C infections.

Merck reports its quarterly results before the market opens today and is expected to discuss sales of its hepatitis treatment, Victrelis.

Many are seeking treatment for the first time for this chronic liver damaging disease, since the cure rate is so much higher and the Vertex drug enables patients to shorten the time they must endure the flu-like side effects of the standard drugs.

Shares of Vertex climbed $1.52, or about 3 percent, to $49.50 in after-hours trading following the earnings report.