CVS to favor Gilead hep C meds over AbbVie's, setting up showdown with Express Scripts
- CVS Caremark, the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the United States, is officially entering the fray over pricey new hepatitis C treatments and picking sides between Gilead and AbbVie.
- CNBC reported on Monday that CVS will give preference to Gilead's Sovaldi and Harvoni for the vast majority of its health plans, making it the go-to option for millions of hep C patients (barring extreme circumstances).
- The decision pits CVS and the Gilead drugs against Express Scripts—the largest benefits manager in America—and AbbVie's recently-approved hep c treatment Viekira Pak. In December, Express Scripts stunned many industry observers by announcing that it would follow through on a plan to exclusively favor the AbbVie drug in exchange for a price discount.
This is going to be one of the most closely-watched distribution and marketing battles of 2015. Many industry observers reacted to Express Scripts' announcement with skepticism, arguing that the company was limiting patient choice and access to hep C medication in its quest to shed costs.
AbbVie priced a 12-week course of Viekira Pak at just under $84,000, or about 10% less than a 12-week course of Harvoni (although some patients need just eight weeks of treatment with the latter drug). But Express Scripts has reportedly secured a big discount from AbbVie that will bring its price down to the $51,000 to $66,000 range.
CVS is sticking with the current industry-leading blockbusters from Gilead. The company released a study last month finding that Harvoni prescription rates among its 65 million-member health plans during the first eight weeks after the drug's launch were outpacing the number of Sovaldi prescriptions issued eight weeks after that drug's launch by 2.5 times.