Saturday, October 30, 2010 8:00 AM
Oct. 30, 2010 (Canada NewsWire Group) --
MONTREAL, Oct. 30 /CNW/ - Merck reported today that final results from two pivotal Phase III studies of boceprevir, its investigational oral hepatitis C protease inhibitor, demonstrated significantly higher sustained virologic response (SVR)1 rates in adult patients who previously failed treatment (treatment-failure; HCV RESPOND-2) and in adult patients who were new to treatment (treatment-naïve; HCV SPRINT-2) for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 compared to control, the primary objective of the studies. The results for the primary endpoints of these studies, which were first reported in a news release in August 20102, and a broad range of further data analyses from these studies are being presented in oral and poster presentations at the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).3,4,5
"The most difficult aspect of managing hepatitis C is that treatment is an extremely long process that is often debilitating for many patients," said Dr. Stephen Shafran, MD, FRCPC, FACP, University of Alberta and an investigator in the SPRINT-2 trial. "These results are extremely exciting because boceprevir substantially increased success rates compared to standard therapy and many of the patients were able to be treated for 28 to 36 weeks."
An estimated 242,500 individuals are infected with HCV in Canada6 and in 2007, there were nearly 8,000 newly infected individuals.7 It is the leading cause of liver transplants in Canada.8
The HCV RESPOND-2 and HCV SPRINT-2 studies each evaluated two treatment strategies with boceprevir administered in combination with ribavirin plus peginterferon alfa-2b (Peg/riba) to assess whether the addition of boceprevir could improve SVR rates and potentially shorten overall treatment duration compared to the use of Peg/riba alone for 48 weeks, which is the current standard duration of therapy. In each study, patients were randomized to three groups:
Response-guided therapy (RGT), in which total treatment duration was based on certain early response criteria. Treatment-failure patients with undetectable virus (HCV-RNA) at week 8 were eligible to stop all treatment at 36 weeks. Treatment-naïve patients with undetectable virus (HCV-RNA) during weeks 8 through 24 were eligible to stop all treatment at 28 weeks.
48 weeks of treatment, in which patients received a 4-week Peg/riba lead-in followed by the addition of boceprevir for 44 weeks.
Control, in which patients received Peg/riba for 48 weeks.
In both studies, all patients were treated with a 4-week lead-in of peginterferon alfa-2b 1.5 mcg/kg/week and an investigational dose of 600-1,400 mg/day of ribavirin, followed by the addition of boceprevir (800 mg three times a day).
In primary results, addition of boceprevir significantly increased SVR rates compared to control
HCV RESPOND-2, which was conducted at U.S., Canadian and other international sites, included 403 adult patients who had failed prior therapy, including patients who relapsed or were non-responders to prior treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin. HCV SPRINT-2 was conducted in 1,097 treatment-naïve adult patients at U.S., Canadian and other international sites who were enrolled in two separate cohorts, one with 938 non-Black patients and the other with 159 Black patients.
As previously reported, the primary results of these two studies were as follows: In treatment-failure patients in HCV RESPOND-2, boceprevir increased SVR rates to 59 percent for the RGT arm (95/162) and 66 percent for the 48-week treatment arm (107/161) compared to 21 percent for control (17/80). In treatment-naïve patients in HCV SPRINT-2, boceprevir increased SVR rates to 63 percent for the RGT arm (233/368) and 66 percent for the 48-week treatment arm (242/366), compared to 38 percent for control (137/363). (All primary endpoints achieved statistical significance of p<0.0001 based on intent-to-treat analyses.)
Researchers present new analyses on boceprevir response-guided therapy
In secondary analyses presented for the first time at AASLD, researchers reported that nearly half of all patients in the boceprevir RGT arms met early response criteria and received a shorter total duration of therapy:
In the RGT arm of the treatment-failure study, 46 percent (74/162) of patients met the early response criteria and were eligible to stop all treatment at 36 weeks, which is 12 weeks shorter than current standard therapy. In these patients, the SVR rate was 86 percent (64/74).
In the RGT arm of the treatment-naïve study, 44 percent of patients (162/368) met the early response criteria and were eligible to stop all treatment at 28 weeks, which is 20 weeks shorter than current standard therapy. In these patients, the SVR rates were 97 percent (143/147) in non-Black treatment-naïve patients and 87 percent (13/15) in Black treatment-naïve patients.
For the corresponding patients in the boceprevir 48-week treatment arms of these studies, the SVR rates were 88 percent (74/84) in treatment-failure patients, 96 percent (137/142) in non-Black treatment-naïve patients and 95 percent (18/19) in Black treatment-naïve patients.
Patients in the boceprevir RGT arms of these studies who did not meet the early response criteria and were treated for up to 48 weeks also achieved substantially higher SVR rates compared to control. In these patients, the SVR rates were 40 percent (29/72) in treatment-failure patients, 74 percent (52/70) in non-Black treatment-naïve patients and 58 percent (7/12) in Black treatment-naïve patients.
"One of the hardest parts of treating patients with hepatitis C is seeing how physically and emotionally demanding the process is for them to go through," said Jo-Ann Ford, RN, MSN, Associate Director of Clinical Research, BC Hepatitis Program. "Boceprevir provides options to Health Care Professionals to adapt treatment based on individual patient response, avoiding unnecessary exposure to additional weeks of therapy."
Tolerability profile in treatment-failure patients
The five most common treatment-related adverse events in the HCV RESPOND-2 study reported for the boceprevir RGT arm, boceprevir 48-week treatment arm and control, respectively, were: fatigue (54, 57, and 50 percent), headache (41, 39 and 48 percent), nausea (44, 39 and 38 percent), chills (35, 30 and 30 percent) and influenza-like illness (23, 23 and 25 percent). Anemia was reported in 43, 46 and 20 percent of patients in the study arms, respectively. Serious adverse events were reported in 10, 14 and 5 percent of patients in the study arms, respectively.
Treatment discontinuations due to adverse events over the total course of all treatment were 8 percent and 12 percent for the boceprevir RGT and 48-week treatment arms, respectively, compared to 3 percent for control. Treatment discontinuations due to anemia were 0 percent and 3 percent for the boceprevir arms, respectively, compared to 0 percent for control. Erythropoietin (EPO) for management of anemia was allowed at the discretion of the investigator per the study protocol, and was used by 41 and 46 percent of patients in the boceprevir RGT and 48-week treatment arms, respectively, compared to 21 percent for control.
Tolerability profile in treatment-naïve patients
The five most common treatment-related adverse events in the HCV SPRINT-2 study reported for the boceprevir RGT arm, boceprevir 48-week treatment arm and control, respectively, were: fatigue (52, 57 and 59 percent), headache (45, 43 and 42 percent), nausea (46, 42 and 40 percent), anemia (49, 49 and 29 percent) and dysgeusia (bad taste) (37, 43 and 18 percent). Serious adverse events were reported in 11, 12 and 9 percent of patients in the study arms, respectively.
Treatment discontinuations due to adverse events over the total course of all treatment were 12 percent and 16 percent for the boceprevir RGT and 48-week treatment arms, respectively, compared to 16 percent for control. Treatment discontinuations due to anemia were 2 percent for each of the boceprevir treatment arms compared to 1 percent for control. EPO for management of anemia was allowed at the discretion of the investigator per the study protocol, and was used by 43 percent of patients in each of the boceprevir treatment arms compared to 24 percent for control.
The HCV RESPOND-2 and HCV SPRINT-2 studies each employed futility or "stopping" rules, whereby patients in any treatment arm who had detectable virus at week 12 in the HCV RESPOND-2 study or at week 24 in the HCV SPRINT-2 study were considered treatment failures and discontinued all treatment. These stopping rules allowed for patients in the studies who did not respond to treatment to have their therapy stopped early, thereby avoiding unnecessary treatment.
Merck's global commitment to advancing hepatitis therapy
Merck is committed to building on its strong legacy in the field of viral hepatitis by continuing to discover, develop and deliver vaccines and medicines to help prevent and treat viral hepatitis. Extensive research efforts are underway to develop differentiated oral therapies that bring innovation to viral hepatitis care.
Boceprevir is not approved in Canada.
About ribavirin plus peginterferon alfa-2b:
Ribavirin plus peginterferon alfa-2b, known as PEGETRON® in Canada, is indicated for the treatment of adult patients (≥ 18 years of age) with chronic hepatitis C who have compensated liver disease and are positive for HCV-RNA, including patients who have not received previous treatment or who failed prior treatment with interferon alpha (pegylated or non-pegylated) and ribavirin combination therapy.1
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit http://www.merck.com/.
This news release includes "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements may include, but are not limited to, statements about the benefits of the merger between Merck and Schering-Plough, including future financial and operating results, the combined company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions and other statements that are not historical facts. Such statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck's management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.
The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements: the possibility that the expected synergies from the merger of Merck and Schering-Plough will not be realized, or will not be realized within the expected time period; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation; the risk that the businesses will not be integrated successfully; disruption from the merger making it more difficult to maintain business and operational relationships; Merck's ability to accurately predict future market conditions; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck's patents and other protections for innovative products; the risk of new and changing regulation and health policies in the U.S. and internationally and the exposure to litigation and/or regulatory actions.
Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck's 2009 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC's Internet site (http://www.sec.gov/).
1 ® Registered trademark of Schering-Plough Ltd. Used under license.
1 SVR, the protocol specified primary efficacy endpoint of the studies, is defined as achievement of undetectable HCV-RNA at 24 weeks after the end of treatment in all randomized patients treated with any study medication. Per protocol, if a patient did not have a 24-week post-treatment assessment, the patient's 12-week post-treatment assessment was utilized.
2 Merck news release: In Pivotal Phase III Studies, Merck's Investigational Medicine Boceprevir Helped Majority of Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 1 Infection Achieve Sustained Virologic Response, the Primary Endpoint of the Studies. Available at: http://www.merck.com/newsroom/news-release-archive/home.html. Aug. 4, 2010.
3 B.R. Bacon et al. HCV RESPOND-2 Final Results: High Sustained Virologic Response Among Genotype 1 Previous Non-Responders and Relapsers to Peginterferon/Ribavirin when Re-Treated with Boceprevir Plus PEGINTRON (Peginterferon alfa-2b)/Ribavirin. Abstract 216.
4 F. Poordad et al. Boceprevir (BOC) Combined with Peginterferon alfa-2b/Ribavirin (P/R) for Treatment-Naïve Patients with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Genotype (G) 1: SPRINT-2 Final Results. Abstract LB-4.
5 J. Bronowicki et al. Response-Guided Therapy (RGT) with Boceprevir (BOC) + Peginterferon alfa-2b/Ribavirin (P/R) for Treatment-Naïve Patients with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Genotype (G) 1 Was Similar to a 48-Wk Fixed-Duration Regimen with BOC + P/R in SPRINT-2. Abstract LB-15.
6 Health Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hepc/faq-eng.php . Accessed Oct. 28. 2010.
7 Health Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hepc/faq-eng.php . Accessed Oct. 28. 2010.
8 Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/Liver_Disease/ . Accessed Oct. 28. 2010.
Mona Aubin Merck
Julia Alter Edelman
(Source: CNW )