Novartis to develop, market hepatitis C drug

BASEL, Switzerland Novartis has gained exclusive rights to develop and market a hepatitis C drug that is the first of its kind, the Swiss drug maker announced Tuesday.

Novartis acquired control of Debio 025 (alisporivir) from Debiopharm Group. The drug is the first of a drug class known as cyclophilin inhibitors, which target host proteins involved in the growth of the virus. The drug is currently in phase 2b clinical trials.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will pay unspecified upfront and milestone payments to Debiopharm, as well as royalties on sales, in exchange for the exclusive right to develop and market the drug worldwide, except in Japan.

“Hepatitis C is sometimes referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because the virus can lie dormant in the body for years or even decades before the symptoms become apparent,” Novartis Pharmaceuticals Division CEO David Epstein said. “Novartis is dedicated to developing medicines that will reduce the impact of this disease on patients, and we believe that Debio 025 could prove an important step forward by significantly enhancing the efficacy of existing therapy that forms the standard of care for hepatitis C.”

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