Merck got its Hepatitis C approval last week, and the analysts are speculating what that will be worth as it goes to market with a wee head start over rival Vertex -- with BMS and Roche coming later in the not too distant future.
Merck's boceprevir, or Victrelis, is expected to cost about $1100 per week (or $31,000 to $48,000 per patient depending upon status) and garner between $604 M and $875 M by 2015 according to the "experts". This is especially true as it received no labeling restrictions and will be used in conjunction with peg interferon and ribavarin as the current standard of care -- and can be used with both Merck's own PEG-intron and Roche's Pegasys (even though not tested with the latter). The Roche allowance was considered a bonus by analysts.
The target market in the US alone is more than 3.2 million patients and China has 10 times that many -- at least --as many remain undiagnosed. Analysts again project the Hep C market could rerach as much as $10 billion annually to divide up amongst the players.
The real short-term battle should now commence between Merck and Vertex -- when it's rival drug telaprevir (or Incivek) gains approval this month. The Vertex drug had slightly better clinical cure rates and is expected to get similar labeling. With that, some project it to grab as much as 2/3 of the early market compared to Merck's 1/3. Merck plans to get cracking to gain as much share as quickly as possible -- and its pricing reflects a more aggressive posture than expected pre-approval.
Posted by Bruce Lehr May 16th 2011.