Shares of Gilead Sciences Inc., the world’s biggest maker of AIDS medicines, hit a record high Thursday after ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum said sales estimates must go “way, way up” on its experimental hepatitis C therapy.
Gilead rose 2.6 percent to $48.94 at the close of trading in New York, the highest price since its stock debuted in January 1992. Shares of the Foster City, California-based company have doubled in the past 12 months.
Gilead’s sales from its hepatitis C treatment in the U.S. alone could reach $6.5 billion in 2014 or 2015 after it wins regulatory clearance, Schoenebaum said, while analysts’ estimates average $4.2 billion for those years combined.
“I realize this number may freak you out,” Schoenebaum wrote today in a note to clients. “Remember, all of this ignores ex-U.S. sales.”
Gilead is among drugmakers seeking to develop new hepatitis C treatments that act more quickly with fewer side effects than the current standard of care. Analysts estimate a market of $20 billion for the new pills to treat as many as 170 million people worldwide with the disease. Patients with the liver disease currently are prescribed drugs, including injectables that may cause flu-like symptoms, for as long as a year.
Research presented in November at the meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston showed that combining Gilead’s experimental drugs with a standard medicine cleared the hepatitis C virus in all 25 patients in a 12-week trial.
“Gilead could utterly annihilate 2014 consensus numbers,” Schoenebaum wrote in a March 21 note. “I have a hard time believing the stock doesn’t continue to go higher. And in a worse case, stock probably won’t go down.”
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