UPDATED: Express Scripts snubs Gilead, will only offer AbbVie's new hep C pill
UPDATE: AbbVie has priced a 12-week course of Viekira Pak at $83,319, which is just under the $84,000 price tag for Sovaldi and bit more than 10% less than the $94,500 cost of a 12-week Harvoni regimen (though some patients need just an eight week course with the latter drug).
At first blush, that's more expensive than analysts' expectations of a 15% to 20% discount over Gilead's drugs. But Express Scripts, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefits manager, has struck a deal with AbbVie to offer Viekira Pak at "a significant discount" and make it the only available treatment option for hepatitis C patients on its network with the most common form of the virus.
Although Express Scripts had telegraphed its intention to favor AbbVie's drug (provided it rang in cheaper than Sovaldi/Harvoni) for some time, Gilead says it plans to continue trying to get its treatments available to the massive Express Scripts network. “We continue to engage with Express Scripts and hope to have meaningful discussions that focus on the best interests of patients with hepatitis C,” said a Gilead spokesperson in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
- The FDA on Friday approved AbbVie's 3-in-1 hepatitis C drug Viekira Pak (ombitasvir, paritaprevir, ritonavir). The company announced in November that the med had stellar cure rates comparable to Gilead's Harvoni.
- "Viekira Pak can be used with or without ribavirin, but it is not recommended for patients whose liver is unable to function properly (decompensated cirrhosis)," wrote the agency in its announcement. Dasabuvir is also part of the treatment regimen.
- As of press time, AbbVie had yet to announce its pricing plan for the regimen, but the buy-side consensus is reportedly that it will be at about a 15% to 20% discount compared to Harvoni (updated above).
This has massive implications for all parties involved. First off, AbbVie execs are dancing at having finally won a new drug approval after more than a decade without a big new candidate. This will instantly give the company a strong sales source, which was imperative for AbbVie as Humira faces patent expiration in 2016.
The big question is pricing (update: a 12-week course of treatment will cost $83,319, but Express Scripts will get a discount in exchange for an exclusive deal). Executives at Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefits manager in America, have indicated that they are looking for hep C meds that are just as effective as Gilead's but come with a smaller price tag (updated above).
So AbbVie could potentially chip away at Harvoni's monster prescriptions and sales through pricing pressure. But then, Gilead could conceivably lower its own prices for Harvoni, which already has a formidable foothold in the market. Let the games begin!
- FDA FDA approves Viekira Pak to treat hepatitis C
- BioPharma Dive Express Scripts gearing up to snub Gilead in favor of AbbVie hep C drug
- Wall Street Journal New Hepatitis C Drug Gets Helping Hand