Hep C Sales (And Cures) Race Begins, In Earnest. . .


Here’s Matt Herper’s take — over at Forbes — on last Friday night’s FDA approval:

. . . .In clinical trials, [boceprevir] cured more than 60% of previously untreated patients when added to the current standard treatments, compared to 40% who got the standard treatments alone. Goldman Sachs says it could be the first of a new group of drugs that increases total sales of hepatitis C drugs from $3 billion to as much as $10 billion.

But many on Wall Street have been giving the inside track to a rival drug, Incivek from Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Goldman’s analysts, for instance, expect Incivek to capture 75% of the market. An FDA decision on Incivek is expected by May 23. . . .

Merck is trying to take advantage of its [momentary timing] lead. Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele says that Victrelis will be available in pharmacies within a week, and that Merck’s sales representatives will begin marketing it within that time. “We’re fully dedicated to introducing Victrelis to the market,” she says.

The drug will cost $1,100 a week wholesale, or $35,200 for a 32-week treatment. . . .

Wall Street expects Incivek to be the big winner, not Victrelis. As many as 79% of previously untreated patients on Incivek achieved undetectable viral levels, compared to 49% on the standard regimen. And Vertex ran a trial in sicker patients than Merck, showing that 65% of treatment experience patients could be helped compared to 17% on the standard of care. . . .

Do stay tuned — $35,000 a year. Now, where will Vertex set its price point?

If it were to come in with even a marginally-lower price point, and these arguably clearly superior efficacy figures — it would be hard to see Merck getting more than 20 percent of the US market, longer term — once the launch push (prescriiber promotions) are flushed from the US sales data stream. That would be in about six months, or around Thanksgiving 2011.

Sincere hat tip to Salmon, here!

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