Schering-Plough Competitor takes leap forward on efficacy of its potential Hep C drug. . . .

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, along with partner Johnson & Johnson, just took a potentially-commanding lead in the race to be first to market with a safe, effective drug to treat Hepatitis C (the so-called non-A, non-B, incurable form of Hepatitis). Schering has a dark horse in this race, and with today’s news, it increasingly looks to be far more of a “field bet,” than a “win-place-or-show” odds-on favorite.

The current-leg of this race features sprints toward launching Phase III studies — and being first to that milestone might well lead to the Winner’s Circle — the controlling positition in the US market for a safe and effective Hep C drug. Quoth Adam Feurstein of The Street:

. . . .Based on these results, Vertex and partner Johnson & Johnson. . . said Monday that they will start a pivotal phase III study in treatment-failure patients during the third quarter [of 2008]. . . .

Consequently, Schering-Plough’s common stock is off about 2 percent on the NYSE, on very heavy-volume, this morning. In the first hour, this morning, it traded nearly three-quarters of its recent average daily volume.

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