Now that Vertex has convinced the FDA to give its Hepatitis C drug, telaprevir, expedited review, it is now working on convincing the CDC to help it get more patients. Xconomy reports that Vertex is lobbying the CDC to recommend that most people over 50 get blood tests for hepatitis C infection.
Vertex is working with other companies in the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition to fund a $3.6 M research study to assess whether this type of screening program would be cost effective. There are currently 600,000 patients in the US who are expected to seek treatment for hepatitis C from either Vertex's telaprevir or Merck's similar drug (also receiving expedited review). However, the screening program envisioned could generate an additional 1 M patients for both companies - out of an estimated 3 to 3.9 M persons in the US with chronic hepatitis C infections.
With such an untapped patient market, and a better therapy to boot, analysts are predicting that Vertex's telaprevir could be a more than $2 B blockbuster at annual peak sales. To make sure it gets there, Vertex is spending money on a public awareness campaign for hepatitis C and also is working hard to get the CDC's support for screening.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Feb 2nd 2011.