Merck’s Experimental Hepatitis C Drug Beats Victrelis

Merck & Co. said an experimental drug against hepatitis C was more effective than its Victrelis pill in a patient study.

The virus was undetectable in the blood of as many as 92 percent of patients six months after they stopped the 12-week course of treatment with the drug, known as MK-5172, compared with 54 percent of those who received Victrelis, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said in a statement today. The trial included 332 people with the most common form of hepatitis C in the U.S., and all received standard therapy ribavirin in addition to either MK-5172 or Victrelis.

Merck said yesterday that it’s entered a non-exclusive agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. to test MK-5172 in combination with Bristol’s daclatasvir.

“The interim findings from this study provide clear direction for future larger trials designed to evaluate MK-5172 in novel, all-oral regimens for HCV,” Eliav Barr, Merck’s vice president of infectious diseases, said in today’s statement.

Merck rose 1.5 percent to $48.63 at the close in New York.

The drug caused increased levels of potentially harmful liver enzymes in some patients on the highest doses, who had their doses reduced as a result, Merck said.

Victrelis was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2011, the first hepatitis C drug in almost a decade.

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