4 Drug Stocks In Focus This World Hepatitis Day

Every year on Jul 28, World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is observed to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, one of the leading causes of death across the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths across the world in 2015 and many people remain unaware of being infected by the same. While there are five types of hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E), hepatitis B and C are the two main killers with 257 million people living with hepatitis B and 71 million people living with hepatitis C.

About 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are unaware of their status. Hepatitis B and C together account for 80% of liver cancer cases across the world.

Considering these numbers, it is not a surprise that quite a few pharma and biotech companies are working on bringing innovative treatments in this area to the market. However, challenges in the hepatitis C virus (HCV) market exist in the form of intense competition and pricing pressure.  

Stocks in Focus

Here is a look at some of the key players in the hepatitis B and/or C markets.

Biotech major, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD - Free Report) is perhaps the most well-known name in the HCV market. HCV drugs include Harvoni, Sovaldi, Epclusa and the recently approved Vosevi while HBV offerings include Viread and Vemlidy.

However, the Foster City, CA-based company has seen a lot of ups and downs in this market. Gilead’s HCV franchise was a major revenue contributor bringing in multi-billion dollar sales but increasing competition and pricing pressure resulted in a significant decline in HCV product sales in 2016. Even though Gilead recently raised its 2017 guidance for its HCV franchise, sales are nevertheless expected to witness a significant decline.  

Gilead launched an educational campaign in 2016 to encourage baby boomers to get tested. According to the company, there has been an 80% increase in HCV antibody screening by baby boomers since the campaign started resulting in an increase in diagnosis as well. The company estimates that about 190,000 people were newly diagnosed with HCV in 2016, up 32% from 2015.

Gilead is conducting additional studies on Harvoni as well as Vemlidy and has an early-stage HBV candidate in its pipeline (GS-9688, a TLR-8 agonist). Gilead is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock. Year-to-date (YTD), the company’s stock is up 4.7%, lagging the 10% rally of the industry it belongs to. 

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Disclosure: Zacks.com contains statements and statistics that have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but are not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. References to any ...

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