Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

Janssen scraps hepatitis C development program

PBR Staff Writer Published 12 September 2017

Janssen Sciences Ireland UC has scrapped its ongoing hepatitis C development program citing the growing number of therapies available for treating the disease effectively.

The Johnson & Johnson company said that by stopping development of JNJ-4178, its investigational hepatitis C treatment regimen, it would focus on addressing significant unmet needs in chronic hepatitis.

JNJ-4178 is a combination of AL-335, odalasvir and simeprevir which are all direct acting antivirals.

Janssen stated that it will continue with the ongoing phase 2 studies of the hepatitis C treatment regimen as per its original plan. However, going forward, the combination drug would not undergo any additional development.

Janssen said that hepatitis C patients now have a much broader range of therapy options for the treatment after a wave of new drug approvals for the disease.

Janssen Infectious Disease Therapeutic global therapeutic area head Lawrence M. Blatt said that the company’s hepatitis research and development efforts will be concentrated on chronic hepatitis B henceforth.

Blatt added: “Our scientists are energized by this challenge and our research ambition is to achieve a functional cure of hepatitis B which affects over a quarter of a billion people globally.

“At Janssen, we focus our research and development on areas of greatest unmet medical need where we can combine our excellent internal science with the best available external innovation to bring optimized solutions and maximum benefit to patients.”

Janssen following its decision has ended the worldwide license and collaboration arrangement on hepatitis C with Achillion Pharmaceuticals.

Achillion president and CEO Milind Deshpande said that the company is disappointed with Janssen's decision especially after the positive data yielded from the phase 2a trial of JNJ-41781 which showed a 100% cure rate after six weeks of therapy.

Deshpande added: “While we believe that patients worldwide would benefit from convenient, short-duration therapies like JNJ-4178, we remain fully focused on advancing our factor D portfolio of complement alternative pathway inhibitors in areas where patient needs are greatest, and using our strong balance sheet of almost $370 million in cash and cash equivalents at June 30, 2017 to do so.”

Image: A Janssen facility in Xi'an, China. Photo: courtesy of Vberger/Wikipedia.org.