Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. will develop a once-a-day pill to treat the HIV virus that combines its popular Reyataz with an experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., the companies said Wednesday.
Under the licensing deal, Bristol-Myers will formulate, manufacture and sell the pill. It will include Reyataz, a popular drug in the class called protease inhibitors, and Gilead's cobicistat, which is designed to boost blood levels of some HIV drugs. It works by blocking an enzyme that breaks down drugs in the body.
Gilead currently is doing mid- and late-stage human tests using the two drugs together to treat newly diagnosed HIV patients.
The two companies already have a joint venture selling the three-drug combination pill Atripla, the top-selling HIV pill in the U.S., with more than $3 billion in global sales last year. It includes Sustiva, made by Bristol-Myers, and Gilead's Viread and Emtriva.
Atripla was the first once-a-day single-pill HIV regimen approved and now is prescribed to more than half of new HIV patients. Such combination pills have become the backbone of HIV treatment, making it simpler for patients, who previously had to take three or more pills multiple times each day.
New York-based Bristol-Myers is to pay Gilead an undisclosed royalty based on annual net sales of the new combination HIV medicine.
Gilead, based in Foster City, Calif., is a biopharmaceutical company that primarily makes HIV and respiratory medicines. It reported Atripla sales of $2.93 billion last year, while another combination HIV pill, Truvada, had sales of $2.65 billion. Viread, sold as an individual pill for patients with both HIV and chronic hepatitis B, had sales of $732 million last year.
Bristol-Myers, which focuses on treatments for heart disease, viruses and cancer, sells two HIV drugs: Reyataz, with 2010 sales of $1.48 billion, and Sustiva, which had 2010 sales of $1.37 billion. The Sustiva total includes Bristol's share of revenue from that medicine included in the Atripla pills.
In midday training, Gilead shares added 4 cents to $41.10, while Bristol-Myers shares rose 7 cents to $32.18.