European Price Wars Seen Shaping up Over Hepatitis C Drugs

20.01.2015 -

Europe, where about 15 million people are believed to be infected with hepatitis C, could become the next battleground between US drugmakers Gilead Sciences and AbbVie in their quest to win shares in the market for drugs to treat the disease.

The two companies have been fighting a high-profile price war in the US over a new generation of blockbuster medicines that replace interferon-based products and promise a quick cure for the virus but cost more than insurers are usually prepared to pay.

On Jan. 16, the European Medicines Agency gave the green light for AbbVie's hepatitis C treatment Viekira Pak to be prescribed for patients with the genotype 1 form of hepatitis C. The drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration FDA on Dec. 19, 2014.

In preparing pricing guidelines, publicly funded European health systems will surely take notice of the bargains US insurers have struck, observers say. The US list price for Gilead's Sovaldi medicine has been pegged at $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, but the negotiated price undoubtedly is much lower.

The UK newspaper Financial Times (FT) says the negotiating power of Europe's single-payer health systems has already secured discounts from Gilead for Solvadi of more than 36% over the US price of $84,000, and the entry of AbbVie could drive deeper cuts. According to the paper, Solvadi is priced at £34,983 in the UK - just under $53,000.

Abbvie CEO Rick Gonzalez told the FT the company is "committed to working with local governments and healthcare systems to support broad access" to its treatment.

Datamonitor Healthcare forecasts that the market for hepatitis C drugs will increase from $2.9 billion in 2013 to $19.2 billion in 2016 - with the top five European markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK accounting for $4 Billion.