Gilead’s Four-in-One AIDS Pill Is Effective in Study

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental four-in-one combination pill for AIDS worked as well as its Atripla drug and didn’t raise cholesterol levels as much, a company-sponsored study showed.

Eighty-eight percent of patients in the 48-week study who took Gilead’s Quad drug had no detectable levels of HIV in their blood compared with 84 percent of those taking the company’s three-drug combination pill Atripla, according to research presented today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

The pill’s development is a way for Foster City, California-based Gilead, the world’s biggest maker of AIDS drugs, to expand revenue and offer patients a more convenient medicine with fewer side effects than current treatments, the company has said. Gilead generated $7 billion from antiviral drugs in 2011.

“Importantly, the abstract stated that total cholesterol and LDL increases are significantly lower for Quad,” Michael Yee, a San Francisco-based analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said in a March 4 note to clients. Some HIV medicines have been linked to an increase in cholesterol, which can lead to heart attacks.

Patients on Quad experienced more nausea than those taking Atripla, though less dizziness, insomnia, abnormal dreams and rashes. That could improve “tolerability and compliance, and subsequently incrementally improve real-world efficacy,” Yee said today in an e-mail.

The drug is in the final stage of clinical trials generally required for regulatory approval.

Atripla, approved in 2006, is the most widely used AIDS medicine. The therapy mixes Gilead’s two-drug medicine Truvada, approved in 2004, with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s pill Sustiva. Quad contains four Gilead compounds in a single pill that patients take once a day.

The FDA may grant Gilead the right to sell Quad on Aug. 27.

Gilead fell less than 1 percent to $45.48 at the close of trading in New York. The shares have gained 11 percent this year.

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