Pharmasset reported results on a [very] small trial with its hepatitis C oral combination therapy with lucrative results to its stock value. In a test with 16 hepatitis C patients, 15 had their viral load eliminated after only 14 days.
The drugs used in development are called PSI-938 and PSI-7977. Both are administered via an oral route. But the really potential excitement for the hepatitis C treatment and patient community is that the combination does NOT require the use of interferon, with its plethora of unpleasant side effects.
Pharmasset's stock rose by more than 32 percent in a couple of days despite a rather ineffective embargo on the trial result imposed by the European Association for the Study of Liver. Investors somehow got the news anyhow --- hmmm - I wonder how.
Seeking Alpha points out that this unbridled enthusiasm may be just a tad premature given this result is tantamount to a phase I study with its 16 person patient size. Investors adopted a "damn the torpedos" attitude without regard to science and reality of larger phase II and III trials (see previous post on Tolerx otelixizumab for example). The post further points out that previous hepatitis C trials have been afflicted with a phenomenon known as "viral breakthrough" -- when the virus stages a comeback from low-level dormancy as drug resistance develops.
Thus, while the initial results are promising and surely this therapy should be pursued through the clinic, the jury remains out until larger patient populations are tested. You may not want to plunk your cash down so early at this stage -- unless you can also afford to lose it. See Fierce Biotech.
Posted by Bruce Lehr March 12th 2011.