Good trial results boost Glaxo shares

There was good news for both ends of the healthcare sector yesterday. Glaxo Wellcome announced encouraging results for its new hepatitis B treatment and medical products minnow Biocompatibles International received the all-clear to launch a follow-on to its successful Proclear durable product into the fast-growing US market for replacement contact lenses.

The news was worth 20p for Glaxo's share price, taking it to pounds 11.08, while Biocompatibles' jumped 82.5p to pounds 13.75.

The results of the latest clinical trials into the effectiveness of lamivudine, better known as Epivir, the anti-Aids drug, on the hepatitis B virus were well received by analysts, although forecasts of eventual sales vary widely from pounds 250m up to pounds 3bn or more.

They will form part of a regulatory filing in Asia later this year, the first time the drugs group has asked for official approval for a new drug in the East rather than the West.

Glaxo said a study of 358 Asian patients overseen by Professor C L Lai of Hong Kong had shown that between 59 and 67 per cent of chronic sufferers had shown improvements to their livers, the organ attacked by the disease, after using the orally administered drug for a period of 12 months.

This compared with only 30 per cent of those using placebo drugs whose liver condition improved.

The tests involved taking biopsies of the livers of the patients involved to seek out the symptoms of the disease, which can lead to both fatal cirrhosis - or scarring - and cancer and is passed on like Aids through bodily fluids and from mothers to offspring.

Glaxo said the results also compared well with the current treatment using interferon, where the equivalent percentage was more like 30 to 40 per cent.

Other tests showed that 16 per cent of patients using lamivudine resulted in undetectable levels of the hepatitis B antigen in the blood, an indicator of the extent of the virus in the body.

The potential market for lamivudine is huge. Hepatitis is carried by 350 million people around the world, of whom 95 per cent are in developing countries, particularly Asia, and 2 million die every year.

Glaxo said definitive conclusions on the product would have to await further analysis, but described the latest results as "extremely encouraging".

Analysts said the test results were in line with expectations, but their view of the prospects for lamivudine differ hugely. Stewart Adkins at Lehman Brothers has described lamivudine as having "the greatest commercial potential of any drug in Glaxo's short-term pipeline". Others, however, warned that the sample size was small and Glaxo still had to deal with pricing issues in the main developing country markets, which are less able to pay for expensive drugs.

One analyst suggested the company might effectively have to give the new drug away in developing markets. Glaxo said it was "discussing how to make the product available in China", probably the biggest potential market anywhere but with limited resources.

Lamivudine was discovered by BioChem Pharma, a Canadian company, and licensed to Glaxo. SmithKline Beecham of the UK and two US companies, Gilead and Bristol Myers Squibb, are developing rival hepatitis B treatments, but they are at an earlier stage than Glaxo.

Separately, Biocompatibles said it had won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to market its new Proclear Compatibles monthly replacement contract lens products. Launched in the UK and northern Europe in February, the authorisation opens up the $800m US soft lens market. The group's Proclear durable lens, which has been on the market for two years, achieved pounds 3m sales out of the group's pounds 11m total for 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before