Zogenix Shares Surge, Merck Stopping Hepatitis C Drug Development

Zogenix experimental treatment used for treating a rare type of epilepsy reached its main late-stage trial goal, said the company Friday, putting it on track to ask for approval by regulators in 2018. Shares of the company more than tripled in trading Friday morning.

The drug, known only as ZX008, has resulted in being superior in comparison to a placebo in lowering how frequent seizures occur in children that have Dravet syndrome, which is a genetic dysfunction within the brain that results in possibly fatal, long-run, fever that is related to seizures that are not responsive to a standard form of treatment.

Zogenix said that its drug also lowered the number of patients that suffered seizures compared to those taking a placebo.

The drug maker said it expected it would report data from another late-stage study during the first six months of 2018 and was on track to submit requests for regulatory approval for its drug in both Europe and the U.S. during the second six months of next year.

Zogenix acquired the drug in 2014 following its acquisition of Brabant Pharma.

Shares of the drug maker based in the U.S. soared from Thursday’s $12.87 close to $40 in trading before the opening bell on Friday.

Merck announced that it was stopping its development of treatment for hepatitis C. The drug maker based in the U.S. said Friday it would discontinue a combination of experimental drugs for chronic hepatitis C, as the competition increases and the patient population contracts.

This decision was taken after a review of trial data in mid-stage studies of the treatments, Merck announced. It currently sells Zepatier a drug for hepatitis C.

Merck becomes the latest pharmaceutical to shift away from this market.

Earlier in September, Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Sciences Ireland said it would be discontinuing any further development of its research of hepatitis C.

Drug makers for hepatitis C treatments have struggled with a slowdown in growth of sales.

Gilead Sciences, the market leader, has seen its sales of Sovaldi, Epclusa and Harvoni, all to treat hepatitis C, drop sharply to $2.9 billion during the second quarter from over $4 billion in the same period one year ago.

Hepatitis C can cause inflammation in the liver that could lead to lower organ function and possible failure of the organ.

It is estimated that between 2.7 million and 3.9 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C in the U.S.

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