It's Going to Be a Big Year for These Pharma Companies

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sees 2019 as “the year of NASH,” with late stage study results expected from the likes of Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc., Allergan Plc and Genfit.

Intercept’s Ocaliva should benefit from its first-mover advantage in the blockbuster nonalcoholic steatohepatitis market fueled by rising obesity rates, Goldman analyst Salveen Richter wrote in a note to clients as the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases conference comes to a close. NASH, an often asymptomatic disease, can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

For other drugs in the same class as Ocaliva, like Gilead’s GS-9674, Richter left the meeting believing the side-effect of severe itching may be a class effect. Bloomberg Intelligence’s Asthika Goonewardene thought Gilead’s molecule might have an edge over Intercept on this known side-effect. Intercept shares rose as much as 3.5 percent as of 12:30 p.m. New York time. While results from Cymabay Therapeutics in the less common disease where Ocaliva is already on the market, primary biliary cholangitis, may also threaten Intercept’s dominance, Cymabay shares stumbled as investors questioned the drugs safety.

Goldman as well as Suntrust Robinson Humphrey Inc. analyst Edward Nash appeared less concerned and thought the drug appeared potent. Cymabay is expected to have mid-stage study data in NASH next year.

Richter was also optimistic on Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, which announced plans last night to start a late-stage NASH study in the first quarter and potentially target cholesterol-lowering indications. Madrigal’s MGL-3196 “continues to impress,” Richter said, and additional data support “a best-in-class profile.”

Shares of Madrigal dropped as much as 12 percent after the company presented detailed safety data and late stage development plans late yesterday. Viking Therapeutics, which is developing a similar therapy, rallied as much as 17 percent before paring much of the gains.

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