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Gilead Shares Rise on Hepatitis C Treatment


The company says a combination therapy of Gilead's drugs showed 100% cure in a study of previously untreated patients. Abbott also reports promising results as a big medical meeting begins.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Shares of Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) are rising after the drug maker said a combination of its therapies were 100% effective in curing a small group of previously untreated patients for hepatitis C.

The finding and other data will be presented at a medical meeting in Boston this week. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) showed that it is neck and neck with Gilead in the race for a better hepatitis C therapy by announcing its own impressive results over the weekend. Abbott said it cured 97.5% of patients who had not previously been treated with any drugs for the liver-wasting virus.

Despite the close race, Gilead shares rose about 11% pre-market Monday, while Abbott rose less than 1%. (Abbott's market cap is about twice the size of Gilead's.) Gilead rose to $71.92 in pre-market trading. The stock is already up 60% on the year, through Friday's close. Abbott traded at $65.10 in early trading before US markets opened.

Both companies reported positive results in treating other groups of patients, including those who are the hardest to cure. But the most important data point to be announced is the so-called treatment naive patients, ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum says.

"This was the key datapoint that the Street was waiting for," the analyst says. Expectations were for about 90% cure, he adds.

Gilead said it treated study patients with two experimental drugs, sofosbuvir (formerly known as GS-7977) and another experimental medicine, GS-5885, plus the older therapy ribavirin. The group of patients showing 100% cure rates in the study were those with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C who have not been treated in the past.

This group is the biggest population of hepatitis C patients in the US and western Europe, Schoenebaum says.

Both Gilead and Abbott have more clinical study to conduct before they can apply to sell their drugs.
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