March 07, 2012

(Reuters) Mar 06 - Two more patients in a trial of Gilead Sciences Inc's experimental hepatitis C drug GS-7977 had the virus return within four weeks of treatment, researchers said on Tuesday.

The company, which recently paid nearly $11 billion to acquire the drug and its developer Pharmasset, said last month that six out of 10 patients with a prior "null response" to standard hepatitis C therapy saw the virus return within four weeks of treatment with a combination of GS-7977 and the antiviral drug ribavirin.

The latest results from the mid-stage trial bring the number of patients who have relapsed to eight.

One patient has not reached the four-week point and the other showed a response to the drug, Dr. Edward Gane from New Zealand's Auckland City Hospital and the study's lead investigator said at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

The company's announcement of the trial results suggested that an all-oral treatment for hepatitis C may be further away than many had hoped.

GS-7977 is designed to block an enzyme essential to the replication of the hepatitis C virus. It is one of a new class of treatments designed to be given without injections of interferon, which can cause debilitating flu-like side effects.

Gilead has said it expects to announce at the end of this month results from a mid-stage trial of GS-7977 in previously untreated hepatitis C patients.

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