Out with the old: Merck discontinues US sales of hep C med Victrelis
- Just four years ago, Merck's protease inhibitor, Victrelis (boceprevir), used in combination with interferon for treatment of hepatitis C, was seen as a game-changer that improved treatment outcomes. However, the advent of Gilead's Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and other new treatment options has rendered Victrelis virtually obsolete in the U.S.
- Both Victrelis and Incivek (telaprevir), a protease inhibitor developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals for treatment of hepatitis C, were introduced in 2011, but their ascendancy was short lived.
- Victrelis sales peaked in 2012 at roughly $502 million, while sales of Incivek peaked at $1.2 billion in the same year.
While Victrelis and Incivek provided a much-need therapeutic option in 2011 and 2012, the window of opportunity shortened as physicians started to "warehouse" patients. Essentially, physicians knew that new treatments, such as Sovaldi, were coming down the pike and because hepattis C is such a slow-moving disease, they decided to encourage their patients to wait it out.
Gilead's Solvaldi and Harvoni (sofosbuvir/ledaspivir) changed the landscape forever and were closely followed by other next-generation hep C treatment options from Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie. Sovaldi quickly took over the market, with an estimated $12 billion in sales in 2014.
It should be noted that despite the fact that marketing Victrelis and Incivek in the U.S. no longer makes sense, there are other markets globally where it may make perfect sense for Merck.