A report released by Goldman Sachs asks a question that the biotech industry has been starting to grapple with: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” It’s a fair question, and an easy answer: no. The GS analysts use another GS, Gilead Sciences, as a case study to explain this. A few years ago Gilead came out with their Hepatitis C cure, and US sales of that peaked in 2015 at about $12.5B. This year it’s projected to make less than $4B in the US. So the obvious conclusion is that curing patients with “one-shot” gene therapies makes less money over time than chronic therapies, makes sense. But jeeeeeeez when you take off your impartial industry analyst hat and think about how this kind of report looks to non-industry people… it’s just bad optics.
Hepatitis C is expensive to treat, which is why a lot of patients don’t get treated for it, and that possibly contributes to why it’s the deadliest infectious disease in the US. It’s gotten to the point where states are considering legal challenges to those precious patent laws that pharma typically spends a lot of money on to make sure no one touches. So, in the fight to increase Hep C treatment, in one corner we have legal challenges, and in the other we have good ol’ market forces. Abbvie’s new Mavyret costs well less than half the amount of some existing treatments, and it can treat all six strains of the infection. Your move competition, may the markets be ever in your favor.
Happy belated International Coffee Day to all our readers (even the ones who have their coffee celebrations on the incorrect date.) It sure was a happy week for coffee proponents—a study published in the Journal of Hepatology found that three cups of coffee a day can halve the risk of death for HIV and Hep C patients. The results were most prominent when the coffee drinkers combined it with other positive health behaviors, namely not smoking, consuming too much alcohol, and having a decent amount of physical activity… all things that generally contribute to not dying. The best part for non-caffeine fans is that you can still receive the anti-inflammatory benefits from decaf. Here are 13 other health benefits of coffee, cheers!
Gilead isn’t the only Hep C game in town but, to date, has held strong to its first-mover advantage. According to a recent article in Investor’s Business Daily, that may soon change. And not because of a lower price. AbbVie’s competitive offering will still list for around $28,000 per month. Its competitive advantage lies in its 4-week shorter treatment regimen. Also, AbbVie’s glecaprevir and pibrentasvir drug combo is likely to be approved with few conditions. Where Gilead’s treatment combo is a 12-week regimen for patients who have not previously responded to a single drug treatment, AbbVie’s combo is taken for only 8 weeks and will probably be approved as a first-line treatment. “Aw, crap,” thought someone at Gilead, probably.