HIV guidelines spotlight Gilead drug

New HIV treatment guidelines from the U.S. government could give a boost to Gilead Sciences' med Truvada, a combo of its Emtriva and Viread treatments. And it disses GlaxoSmithKline's Truvada competitor--Epzicom--by sidelining the drug to an "alternative" rather than a "preferred" treatment for previously untreated patients. Previously, both Truvada and Epzicom were listed as preferred.

What changed the Department of Health and Human Services' mind? The guidelines reference "recent data." We presume they're referring to new concerns about possible heart-safety risks linked to abacavir, one of the anti-HIV meds included in the Epzicom combo pill (the other is lamivudine). The Street notes that those safety concerns have already boosted sales of another combo pill recently launched in Europe--Atripla--which combines Emtriva and Viread with the Bristol-Myers Squibb drug Sustiva.

A JP Morgan analyst called the new guidelines "a meaningful positive" for Gilead. The abacavir data has only affected prescription trends modestly so far, but the guidelines could change that. And there are 100,000 patients taking abacavir regimens, the analyst said.

- read the story at The Street