CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Monday that Canadian regulators have approved its hepatitis C drug Incivek for use in combination with other treatments in people who have the disease and a damaged but still-functioning liver.
Health Canada approved the combination for both patients who are new to treatment and those who have been treated previously, the Cambridge, Mass., company said.
Patients on Incivek take two pills three times per day.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Incivek in May. The highly anticipated pill is expected to have annual sales in the billions. Incivek and Merck & Co.’s Victrelis, which also was approved in May, are the first new breakthrough treatments for the liver disease to be approved in 20 years.
Both Incivek and Victrelis block an enzyme that helps the Hepatitus virus reproduce. Incivek is seen by Wall Street analysts as the more effective of the two drugs and is expected to have higher sales.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that is spread through the blood. Vertex has said about 4 million people in the U.S. have the disease, and many people do not know they are infected. Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer.