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Merck Discontinues Development of Experimental Hepatitis C Drugs


Late last month Merck announced that it was halting further development of 2 investigational hepatitis C therapies. The first is a 3-drug coformulation containing the HCV protease inhibitor grazoprevir, the NS5A inhibitor ruzasvir, and the HCV polymerase inhibitor uprifosbuvir. The second is a 2-drug combo containing ruzasvir and uprifosbuvir.

Grazoprevir, along with the NS5A inhibitor elbasvir, are components of the company's FDA-approved Zepatier coformulation. Zepatier has a cure rate exceeding 90% for people with HCV genotypes 1 and 4.

The new combinations could potentially have improved response rates for some patients and extended treatment to people with more genotypes. However, the recent approval of new pangenotypic (effective against all genotypes) coformulations -- Gilead's Vosevi (sofosbuvir/velpatasvir/voxilaprevir)and AbbVie's Mavyret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir), the latter of which is priced well below competing therapies -- leaves the hepatitis C direct-acting antiviral market fairly well saturated. Janssen also recently announced that it was discontinuing its hepatitis C drug development program,

Below is an edited excerpt from a Merck press release announcing the decision.

Merck Discontinues MK-3682B and MK-3682C Development Programs

-- Company to Focus on Maximizing the Potential of Zepatier (Elbasvir and Grazoprevir)

September 29, 2017 -- KENILWORTH, N.J. -- Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, today announced its strategic decision to discontinue the development of the investigational combination regimens MK-3682B (grazoprevir/ruzasvir/uprifosbuvir) and MK-3682C (ruzasvir/uprifosbuvir) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. This decision was made based on a review of available Phase 2 efficacy data and in consideration of the evolving marketplace and the growing number of treatment options available for patients with chronic HCV infection, including Zepatier (elbasvir and grazoprevir).

"Remarkable progress has been made in the fight against hepatitis C infection, and Merck is enormously proud of the role we have had in that fight over the past 30 years," said Dr. Eliav Barr, senior vice president, global clinical development, infectious diseases and vaccines, Merck Research Laboratories. "We will continue to study Zepatier to understand even more about its role in treating chronic hepatitis C infection and will continue to work with others to help bring Zepatier to appropriate patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 or 4 infection, the genotypes which make up the majority of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection."



Merck. Merck Discontinues MK-3682B and MK-3682C Development Programs. Press release. September 29, 2017.