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Merck and Roche sign HCV deal

Merck and Roche sign HCV deal

Merck, which is known as MSD outside the US, has entered into a partnership under which Roche will promote the company's newly approved chronic hepatitis C (HCV) therapy Victrelis (boceprevir) to doctors as part of a triple combination therapy regimen that also includes peginterferon alfa, which Roche markets as Pegasys, and ribavirin.

Under the non-exclusive deal, the companies will also work together to educate doctors, nurses and patients about the disease, including its diagnosis. The partnership will begin in the US, but the two companies said they eventually hope to extend it to other developed and emerging markets around the world.

Additionally, Merck and Roche scientists will collaborate to study new combinations of marketed and investigational medicines from both companies as possible new treatment regimens for HCV.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Victrelis earlier this month, making it the first new drug to be cleared for the disease in 20 years. Specifically, the approved indication covers the treatment of chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 infection, in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, in adult patients (18 years of age and older) with compensated liver disease, including cirrhosis, who are previously untreated or who have failed previous interferon and ribavirin therapy.

The product must not be used as monotherapy, according to the FDA. Genotype 1 is the most common form of the virus in the US and the hardest to treat.

Victrelis is an oral therapy that is taken three times a day with food. Merck acquired the drug as part of its 2009 takeover of Schering-Plough, which had brought the product through phase II development. Compared to current standard therapy, Victrelis can significantly increase the chance of achieving undetectable levels of the virus, sometimes with a shorter total duration of treatment.

18th May 2011

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