Imminent competition drives drop in its hepatitis C drug’s performance

US biopharmaceutical firm Vertex is cutting 370 jobs as it faces a drop in demand for its hepatitis C drug Incivek (telaprevir). Most of the jobs being cut will come from the teams involved with Incivek, with just under half coming from the company’s sites in Masachussetts.

‘As new medicines for hepatitis C near approval, fewer people are starting treatment with Incivek,’ said company chief executive Jeffrey Leiden in a statement. ‘As a result, we are reducing our workforce supporting this medicine. Today is a difficult day for everyone at Vertex.’

Incivek was approved in 2011, one of a pair of new drugs for hepatitis C after a 20 year innovation gap. But its main drawback is that it has to be taken in combination with an interferon derivative, which can cause unpleasant side effects. New drugs in the pipeline from Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb don’t need the interferon combination, so may be preferable to patients.