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AbbVie (ABBV - Analyst Report) recently released positive initial results from a phase III study, SAPPHIRE-I.

The positive results from the SAPPHIRE study led to a 2.2% rise in the shares. However, much of that gain was mitigated and shares were up 0.89% at the end of the trading session.

The study is being conducted to evaluate AbbVie’s investigational three direct-acting-antiviral (3D) regimen plus ribavirin in patients suffering from genotype 1 (GT1) hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The patients were dosed ABT-333 (250mg) and ribavirin (weight-based) twice daily along with a single daily fixed-dose combination of ABT-450/ritonavir (150/100mg) co-formulated with ABT-267 (25mg).

It was observed from the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled SAPPHIRE- I study (n=631) that 96% of treatment naïve patients achieved a sustained virologic response after 12 weeks of treatment. In addition, only 1.7% of patients suffered a virologic relapse.

We note that SAPPHIRE-I is the first of six phase III trials being conducted to evaluate the efficacy of 3D regimen in GT1 HCV patients.

The company remains on track for major regulatory submissions in the second quarter of 2014.

We are encouraged by the pipeline progress at AbbVie. The company’s late-stage pipeline looks impressive with several compounds or indications in phase III development targeting therapeutic areas like HCV, immunology, multiple sclerosis and endometriosis.

AbbVie currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). While we are positive on AbbVie’s strong late-stage pipeline, dividend yield and growth strategy, we remain concerned about its dependence on Humira.

Companies that currently look attractive include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Analyst Report), Bayer (BAYRY - Analyst Report), and Shire (SHPG - Analyst Report). While Shire is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer are Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stocks.

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