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Gilead’s Experimental Hepatitis C Drug Cured 88% Post-Therapy

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental hepatitis C drug cleared the virus in 88 percent of patients four weeks after treatment ended in a study, the company said today.

A combination of Gilead’s 7977 drug and the antiviral ribavirin cleared 22 out of 25 patients who hadn’t tried other medications after 12 weeks on the therapy, the Foster City, California-based company said at the European Association for the Study of Liver meeting in Barcelona.

Gilead, the world’s largest HIV drugmaker, spent $10.8 billion to acquire Pharmasset Inc. and its drug 7977. The company’s shares declined the most in 11 years after it said in February that patients who had failed prior therapies relapsed when they stopped taking its drug.

Gilead is among several companies including Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Merck & Co. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. working on hepatitis cures that don’t require the use of interferon, an injection tied to flu-like side effects.

If Gilead’s hepatitis C drug is approved, at the end of 2013 at the earliest, it may add $3 billion to $4 billion in revenue by 2018, according to Michael Yee, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in San Francisco.

Hepatitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling and inflammation of the liver and can lead to damage of the organ, cancer and death, according to the National Institutes of Health. More than 170 million people are infected globally.

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