Think of any severely underserved therapeutic area today. What if:
• Efficacy rates around 40% at least doubled;
• Toxicities that crush adherence and prevent many from starting treatment fell drastically;
• The long treatment course decreased to one-fourth its duration;
• And we eliminated the need for injectable therapy?
Either you're thinking it's time to wake up, or you've guessed the area where this metamorphosis is happening: hepatitis C virus.
It started in 2011 with approval of Vertex's Incivek and Merck's Victrelis. The next wave of agents from Gilead, Abbott, BMS, Janssen and others will offer shorter therapy, utility across difficult-to-treat patients, even higher SVR and, the Holy Grail, elimination of injectable, tolerability-busting interferon.
This revolution could take place in less than a five-year stretch.
Who wins? Patients, but the dividends go beyond that. HCPs could see a huge decrease in hours logged toward patient education and side-effect support. Practices that cap the number of patients they treat may be able to significantly increase capacity. Long-term costs could shrink dramatically.
Much of what's published about the pharma industry has negative connotations. “Pharma bashing” is popular, with constant talk about how our R&D model is broken, our sales/marketing efforts are obsolete, etc. Fair enough—let's revamp.
But let's celebrate when amazing success stories happen. The revolution in HCV is a great success. As it became evident that a large HCV+ cohort would likely need medical intervention, pharma responded. And the results could not be more stunning.
Jeff Glor is executive director, BioVid.