A new study carried out at Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared bictegravir, tivicay, and Gilead Sciences’ descovy, the main HIV drugs expected to be effective and tolerable.

Apparently, Gilead Sciences’ drug has an improved array of integrase inhibitors, which are essential for the first stages of therapy.

Image credit: Amy Sancetta / AP / NPR
Image credit: Amy Sancetta / AP / NPR

“Bictegravir is an investigational integrase inhibitor that’s very potent, allows once-daily dosing without boosting, and also has activity against both wild-type and most integrase-resistant viruses,” stated Paul E. Sax, MD, lead researcher of HIV studies at the hospital.

A new contender in the HIV drug market

For the study, 95 patients were recruited. Some received a daily dose of 75mg of bictegravir while others received 50mg of dolutegravir. Researchers note that the results were nothing short of amazing, seeing that 94 percent those who received bictegravir showed a reduction of HIV RNA within 24 weeks of treatment. 24 weeks later, bictegravir’s success rate was at 97 percent of patients, while dolutegravir had 91 percent.

No evidence of virological resistance was picked up during the study, as researchers noted that both treatments showed a high degree of tolerance coming from the patient. Only one patient could not complete the study due to having a history of allergic dermatitis.

Results were sufficient for progressing towards phase 3 of testing, which will evaluate combining bictegravir, tenofovir, alafenamide (TAF) and emtricitabine in a single tablet.

The progress announced by Gilead Sciences has been perceived as a challenge for GlaxoSmithKline, being the leading promoters of dolutegravir. Apparently, the study results are yet to be conclusive, although they are highly positive for Gilead, who is planning to carry out with the third phase of testing later this year.

Image credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Image credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Investors are looking positively but with skepticism at Gilead Sciences, even if it lost 6.9 percent of its value in sales. This is also paired with the company spending over 20 percent of its operational budget on research efforts; they also announced that worse net product sales are to be expected in 2017, with a 21.5 percent loss in sales compared to 2016’s fiscal year.

Gilead Sciences had its best years in late 2015 before most of its clinical trials ended abruptly. Some fear that the company will get to the point of being acquired by a major firm to pay its shareholders.

Investor interest comes from unconfirmed rumors about Carl Icahn saying that the GILD stock is bound to go up anytime soon. The last ten trading sessions have seen increasingly high trade volumes, translating to 287,328 calls for the stock to go up, compared to 254,182 puts betting that the stock will go down.

Perhaps hitting a new milestone in developing a highly tolerable HIV drug will help Gilead Sciences overcome its financial struggles and become one of the leading contenders in a market where competition is scarce. The GILD stock resides at a deep low compared to Q2 2016, but a significant breakthrough in HIV drug trials are sure to improve the company’s value.

Source: Reuters