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Gilead pays $11bn for Pharmasset and its hepatitis C drugs

US-based pharma company's acquisition will give it control of three promising oral hepatitis C drugs

Gilead Sciences has agreed a deal to purchase Pharmasset for $11bn, giving the US-based pharma firm control of three investigational oral treatments for hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Pharmasset specialises in developing clinical-stage pharmaceuticals and its hepatitis C pipeline includes PSI-7977, PSI-938 and mericitabine (RG7128).

Gilead has high hopes for PSI-7977, which is currently in phase III development in combination with ribavirin and could offer an alternative to injection-based therapy regimens.

It is being compared to standard treatment pegylated interferon/ribavirin in treatment-naive patients and placebo in patients intolerant to or ineligible for interferon.

The company said that depending on the results of these trials, as well as a third to be initiated in the second half of 2012, PSI-7977 could gain initial approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014.

Both PSI-938 and mericitabine are in phase II development. The rights to mericitabine are jointly held by Roche, with the Swiss company responsible for all aspects of the drug's development.
Dr John Martin, chairman and CEO of Gilead, said the deal offered the company a chance to “change the treatment paradigm” for patients with HCV by allowing all individuals access to entirely oral treatment regimens.

“This transaction will serve to drive the long-term growth of our business, and we look forward to working closely with the Pharmasset team to advance a broad clinical programme in HCV to address the unmet needs of patients and the medical community."

Schaefer Price, president and CEO, Pharmasset, was similarly positive. “Gilead's established expertise and leadership in the field of antiviral drug development and commercialisation, coupled with the company's existing portfolio of promising compounds for HCV, make this partnership an ideal step to fully realise the potential of our promising molecules as part of future all-oral combination therapies for millions of patients in need around the world," he said.

For the 12 months ended September 30, 2011, Pharmasset had revenues of $897m.

The deal has the unanimous approval of Pharmasset's board of directors and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2012.

22nd November 2011


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