Merck has success with new HIV drug in phase 3 trials
In a market dominated by Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, pharmaceutical firm Merck is optimistic about a new HIV medication.
In its first phase 3 trial (testing how safe and efficient it is on humans) Merck’s new drug doravirine has matched the efficiency of popular HIV drug Prezista, which is marketed in Australia by Janssen-Cilag, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
Doravirine matched the results of ritonavir-boosted Prezista when given on top of standard two-drug antiretroviral regimens in previously untreated HIV positive people.
It's a good result for doravirine, particularly as HIV protease inhibitor Prezista has become a preferred component for first-line HIV treatment because it is one of the antiretroviral drugs least likely to cause resistance to HIV, helping it reach $1.85 billion in sales last year.
Merck’s Roger Perlmutter told delegates at a healthcare conference last year that doravirine has properties “very much like efavirenz, but a substantially better safety profile which could lead it to be one of the dominant agents used in HIV treatment.”
Efavirenz is one of the drugs in Atripla, Trustiva and others, and is sold as a stand-alone drug under a variety of names.
Although HIV can generally be managed with available antiretroviral drugs, there is a need for new drugs that overcome the limitations of earlier drugs in their effectiveness against drug-resistant strains of the virus, plus having improved potency, dosing and tolerability features.
image: Merck's Innovation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.