The pharmacy benefits manager ($ESRX)–which has made its feelings well known when it comes to the high cost of Gilead’s ($GILD) next-gen hepatitis C drugs–says it may quickly change its preferred drug formulary to favor an anticipated challenger from the Illinois company ($ABBV), Reuters reports, provided it’s clinically equivalent–and less expensive, of course.
On a Wednesday conference call with analysts, CEO Steve Miller echoed
comments he’s made time and again since the
$84,000-per-treatment-course Sovaldi–which broke the record for fastest drug launch ever and now makes up half the biotech’s brand-new $94,500 combo regimen, Harvoni–rolled out. “The cost of it is unsustainable for many of our plans,” he said, as quoted by the news service.
While Express Scripts has been pinning its hopes on eventual
competitors–earlier this year, it began assembling a coalition to
exclude Sovaldi until lower-cost rivals hit the market, forcing prices
down–there’s no guarantee AbbVie or others will undercut Gilead’s
trailblazers. A spokeswoman for the North Chicago company told Reuters no price has been disclosed for the investigational drug, which AbbVie hopes can win approval and launch before year’s end.
global pharmaceutical companies have separately come up with an oral
pill that nearly eliminate the virus called HCV from the blood of almost
100 percent of treated patients.
There is no cure yet for AIDS, but there is great hope that an
experimental drug – based on findings about human immunodeficiency virus
– will cure hepatitis C virus (HCV).
If the simultaneous breakthroughs by three pharmaceutical giants pan
out, they will undoubtedly be hailed as the biggest news in pharmacology
since penicillin. Some four million people around the world are
infected with hepatitis C every year. In total around 170 million people
are infected with the chronic liver infection, but many are unaware of
it, and it kills some 350,000 to 500,000 annually.
Three experimental pills have been developed – all from the same class of drugs but involving different molecules.
Merck & Co. (MRK:US)’s
experimental hepatitis C pill produced clinical trial results
positioning the drug as a strong competitor to a potential blockbuster
therapy from Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD:US)
two-drug combination once-a-day pill stopped the virus in 98 percent of
newly treated patients with few major side effects, according to a
mid-stage study presented today at the European Association for the
Study of the Liver in London.
The only major difference with
Gilead’s drug will be four weeks longer of treatment, said Alex Arfaei,
an analyst with BMO Capital Markets Corp. “We believe Merck can
compensate for that with a modest discount,” he said in a note to
clients today. It could be on the market by early 2016, he said.