Vertex Tops Merck

Xconomy Boston — 

Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals’s (NASDAQ:VRTX) stock price has lifted slightly this morning after Merck (NYSE:MRK) reported results of two Phase III trials for its rival protease inhibitor for hepatitis C infection, boceprevir. While Merck’s drug met the primary goals of the trials, it didn’t wipe out the chronic liver disease quite a much as Vertex’s telaprevir did in a pivotal study revealed in May. Vertex’s telaprevir compound, when given in combination with two standard drugs, was able to eliminate any sign of the hepatitis C virus in the blood for 75 percent of patients in that study. By comparison, Whitehouse Station, NJ-based Merck says today that its drug in combination with existing therapies helped eradicate the infection in 66 percent of patients in both of its studies. Vertex’s stock was up 2.67 percent on the day to $36.18 per share as of 11:05 Eastern time. (In case you missed it, our story today chronicles the early history of telaprevir and how drug giant Eli Lilly let this potential billion-dollar molecule slip away.)