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Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) Makes Headlines With HIV Prevention Pill, Looks to Hepatitis Drugs for Future

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Investors look to early next year when a moment of truth arrives for the biotech's hepatitis C program. Shares are trading at a record level and some analysts see the stock rising much more.

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But after owning the HIV drug market for years, Gilead is pushing into another potentially big area with development of next-generation hepatitis C treatments. And the moment of truth will soon arrive for this closely watched new treatment program.

A number of investors know this story well. Hope for better hepatitis drugs has helped push Gilead shares up more than 50% this year. and shares are trading at an all-time high. The stock rose more than 2% to $61.70 Friday morning.

But the hepatitis story potentially becomes much bigger next year. Investors will parse study data for a pair of Gilead's experimental hepatitis treatments following release of research expected at a medical meeting in November. Interim analysis, so far, has looked good for Gilead. But the closer Gilead gets to presenting final study data for the lead drug, GS7977, early next year, the more momentum will build for the company's stock. That is, if all goes well and there are no safety or efficacy issues. If all goes as planned, Gilead will file for US approval by midyear. Looking past next year, Gilead hopes to apply for approval of a combination of GS7977 and another experimental drug that potentially creates an even better treatment. For now, the lead drug is in the spotlight.

"All this data minutia should be coming to an end in six months," ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum says. "We're going to have an answer. Is Gilead's drug safe and does it work? I think it's going to work. I think the cure rate is going to be over 80%."
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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