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Merck's Triple Combination HCV Therapy Positive in Phase III

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Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK - Free Report) announced positive data from three phase II trials evaluating its pipeline candidate, MK-3682, in combination with grazoprevir and ruzasvir1 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection.

Results from two studies showed that treatment with the all-oral, triple combination regimen (MK-3682B) resulted in high rates of sustained virologic response 12 weeks after the completion of the therapy (SVR12) in patients, with chronic HCV genotype (GT) 1 or GT3 infection, who received eight weeks of treatment with combination medicine. Findings from these studies also demonstrated high rates of SVR12 in GT1, GT2 and GT3-infected patients, who received the combination therapy for 12 or 16 weeks.

Merck’s key HCV drug in the market is Zepatier which was launched in the U.S. in February. Zepatier, brought in sales of $164 million, up from $112 million in the second quarter of 2016. Zepatier is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter in Japan where it was recently approved. It is expected to be a key top-line driver for Merck.

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The HCV market is getting crowded and could thus see more pricing pressure.  Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD - Free Report) markets blockbuster HCV drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, while other well-known names in this market are AbbVie Inc.’s (ABBV - Free Report) Viekira Pak, Bristol-Myers’ Daklinza and Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ - Free Report) Olysio. Moreover, other companies are also looking to bring new, improved, shorter-duration HCV treatments to market.

Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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