Gilead Gains on Positive Data From Experimental Hepatitis C Drug

Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), the drugmaker that acquired Pharmasset Inc. last month for its experimental hepatitis C treatments, gained the most in three years after one of the medicines produced positive clinical trial results.

Gilead rose 11 percent to $54.70 at the close of trading in New York, its biggest single-day gain since Oct. 13, 2008. The shares of the Foster City, California-based drugmaker have increased 41 percent in the last 12 months.

Patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C -- the most common in North America -- had no detectable signs of the virus after four weeks on the drug, PSI-7977, Norbert Bischofberger, Gilead’s chief scientific officer, said yesterday on a conference call with analysts and investors. An earlier study of the medicine, acquired in the $10.8 billion Pharmasset purchase, cured all patients with genotype 2 and 3.

Drugmakers including Gilead, Abbott Laboratories, Merck & Co., Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY), are striving to develop a new class of oral cures for hepatitis C to replace older drugs that require injections. Bristol-Myers last month agreed to spend $2.5 billion to buy Inhibitex Inc. (INHX) for its experimental hepatitis C therapies.

“It looks like Gilead will race ahead and continue to lead because its drug 7977 continues to support potential 100 percent cure rates,” Michael Yee, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco, said in an interview yesterday. “The data disclosed in genotype 1, an important population for which there was no good data yet, continues to show they can support a multibillion-dollar drug franchise with 7977.”

The drug was tested in combination with ribavirin, a medication currently used in treating the disease. The therapy was given to patients who hadn’t taken other drugs and those whose illness wasn’t helped by other treatments.

The company will present further data on the clinical trial at an infectious diseases conference next month in Seattle.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Flinn in San Francisco at rflinn@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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