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Merck announces initiation of clinical development collaboration with Roche

Posted: 15 December 2011 | | No comments yet

New clinical trial will evaluate an investigational therapeutic regimen with VICTRELIS™ (boceprevir)…

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Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced today that Merck, in collaboration with Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), has initiated the first of a series of planned clinical trials to examine novel combinations of marketed and investigational medicines to expedite the availability of potential new treatment regimens for patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection. Clinical development collaboration is part of the overarching strategic agreement between Merck and Roche to improve treatment, diagnosis and awareness of chronic HCV in developed and emerging markets.

“VICTRELIS is the first in a new class of medicines for the treatment of chronic HCV genotype 1 infection, and when used in combination with peginterferon alfa, can significantly increase a patient’s chance of achieving undetectable levels of the virus,” said Eliav Barr, M.D., vice president, Infectious Diseases Project Leadership and Management, Merck Research Laboratories. “The start of this new study is an important milestone in our collaboration with Roche as we work to build on the innovative platform VICTRELIS provides by evaluating it in combination therapy with new investigational medicines for the treatment of chronic HCV genotype 1 infection, and also emphasizes our ongoing commitment to seeking novel treatment options for patients with chronic HCV.”

The first trial is designed to provide clinical data on the use of VICTRELIS™ (boceprevir), an oral HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor, in combination with mericitabine (RO5024048), Roche’s investigational oral HCV NS5B nucleoside polymerase inhibitor, Pegasys® (pegylated interferon alfa-2a) and Copegus® (ribavirin), in adult patients with chronic HCV genotype 1 infection who had a null response to prior peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy (less than a 2 log HCV-RNA decline at treatment week 12). The Phase II study, called DYNAMO 1, plans to recruit patients at 25 sites globally. For further details of the clinical trial please visit www.clinicaltrials.gov, or contact (888) 662-6728 (U.S. only) or [email protected] info.com.

Indications and usage for VICTRELIS

VICTRELIS was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 13, 2011 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 (G1) infection, in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin (P/R), in adult patients (18 years and older) with compensated liver disease, including cirrhosis, who are previously untreated or who have failed previous interferon and ribavirin therapy.

The following points should be considered when initiating VICTRELIS for treatment of chronic HCV infection:

  • VICTRELIS must not be used as monotherapy and should only be used in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.
  • VICTRELIS efficacy has not been studied in patients who have previously failed therapy with a treatment regimen that includes VICTRELIS or other HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors.
  • VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin has not been studied in patients documented to be historical null responders (less than a 2 log HCV-RNA decline by treatment week 12) during prior therapy with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. The clinical studies included patients who were poorly interferon responsive. Patients with less than 0.5 log HCV-RNA decline in viral load at treatment week 4 with peginterferon alfa plus ribavirin alone are predicted to have a null response (less than a 2 log viral load decline by treatment week 12) to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy.
  • Poorly interferon responsive patients who were treated with VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin have a lower likelihood of achieving a sustained virologic response (SVR), and a higher rate of detection of resistance-associated substitutions upon treatment failure, compared to patients with a greater response to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.

Important safety information about VICTRELIS

All contraindications to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin also apply since VICTRELIS must be administered with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Because ribavirin may cause birth defects and fetal death, VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin is contraindicated in pregnant women and in men whose female partners are pregnant. Avoid pregnancy in female patients and female partners of male patients. Patients must have a negative pregnancy test prior to therapy; have monthly pregnancy tests; and use two or more forms of effective contraception, including intrauterine devices and barrier methods, during treatment and for at least 6 months after treatment has concluded. Systemic hormonal contraceptives may not be as effective in women while taking VICTRELIS and concomitant ribavirin.

VICTRELIS is contraindicated in coadministration with drugs that are highly dependent on CYP3A4/5 for clearance, and for which elevated plasma concentrations are associated with serious and/or life-threatening events. VICTRELIS also is contraindicated in coadministration with potent CYP3A4/5 inducers where significantly reduced VICTRELIS plasma concentrations may be associated with reduced efficacy. Drugs that are contraindicated with VICTRELIS include: alfuzosin, carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifampin, dihydroergotamine, ergonovine, ergotamine, methylergonovine, cisapride, St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum), lovastatin, simvastatin, drosperinone, Revatio® (sildenafil) or Adcirca® (tadalafil) (when used for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension), pimozide, triazolam, and orally administered midazolam.

Anemia and neutropenia have been reported with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy. The addition of VICTRELIS to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin is associated with an additional decrease in hemoglobin concentrations compared to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin alone and/or may result in worsening of neutropenia associated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy alone. Dose reduction or discontinuation of peginterferon alfa and/or ribavirin may be required. Dose reduction of VICTRELIS is not recommended. VICTRELIS must not be administered in the absence of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.

Complete blood counts (with white blood cell differential counts) must be conducted in all patients prior to initiating combination therapy with VICTRELIS. Complete blood counts should be obtained at treatment weeks 4, 8 and 12, and should be monitored closely at other time points, as clinically appropriate.

The most commonly reported adverse reactions (greater than 35 percent) in clinical trials in adult patients receiving the combination of VICTRELIS with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin were fatigue, anemia, nausea, headache and dysgeusia. Of these commonly reported adverse reactions, fatigue, anemia, nausea, and dysgeusia occurred at rates greater than or equal to 5 percent above the rates for peginterferon alfa and ribavirin alone in either clinical study. The incidence of these adverse reactions in previously untreated patients who were treated with combination therapy with VICTRELIS compared with peginterferon and ribavirin alone were: fatigue (58 vs. 59 percent), anemia (50 vs. 30 percent), nausea (46 vs. 42 percent) and dysgeusia (35 vs. 16 percent), respectively. The incidence of these adverse reactions in previous treatment-failure patients who were treated with combination therapy with VICTRELIS compared with peginterferon and ribavirin alone were: fatigue (55 vs. 50 percent), anemia (45 vs. 20 percent), nausea (43 vs. 38 percent) and dysgeusia (44 vs. 11 percent), respectively.

VICTRELIS is a strong inhibitor of CYP3A4/5 and is partly metabolized by CYP3A4/5. The potential for drug-drug interactions must be considered prior to and during therapy.

Please see U.S. prescribing information at: http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/v/victrelis/victrelis_pi.pdf.

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