United States regulators on Thursday approved a new once-daily pill for the liver-destroying hepatitis C virus made by Merck, which said it would sell the drug at a lower list price than its competitors.
The list price for Zepatier will be $54,600 for a 12-week regimen, which Merck said it expected “to be in the range of net prices” for comparable treatments.
Gilead Sciences, which secured an early lead in the lucrative market for oral hepatitis C drugs with the $1,000-per-pill Sovaldi, sells an enhanced version of that drug as a single-tablet regimen called Harvoni at a list price of $94,500. AbbVie followed in late 2014 with a multi-pill regimen. Nevertheless, AbbVie had exclusive contracts with payers like the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, forcing Gilead to discount its own contract prices.
Gilead has continued to dominate the market with hepatitis C drug sales of more than $14 billion in the first nine months of 2015.
Hepatitis C infects an estimated 3.2 million Americans.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Zepatier, with or without the older antiviral drug ribavirin, for patients infected with the most common form of hepatitis C, genotype 1, as well as the less common genotype 4.
Clinical trials found that 12 or 16 weeks of treatment with Merck’s Zepatier reduced the virus to undetectable levels, which is considered a cure, in more than 94 percent of patients, the FDA said in a statement.
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