Payer revolt notwithstanding, Gilead's Sovaldi earns crown as fastest drug launch ever

Gilead's Sovaldi

We can officially say that Gilead Sciences pulled off the fastest drug launch on record. First-quarter sales of the company's ($GILD) new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), approved in December, blew past previous records and just kept going. And along the way, it broke the blockbuster barrier, too.

Sovaldi's Q1 total: $2.27 billion. A full $1 billion more than analyst estimates. And as ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum points out, that's "above even the high end" of forecasts floated by buy-side analysts recently.

So, despite the payer revolt and the public consternation about its $1,000-per-day price tag, Sovaldi sales are blazing ahead. Some 40,000 patients have been treated so far. Looming competition may have doctors warehousing patients again--in anticipation of these all-new cocktails from AbbVie ($ABBV) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), in addition to Gilead. But Leerink Partners analyst Howard Liang says new hep C screening protocols are boosting diagnoses, adding to the pool of potential patients.

Based on an in-house survey, the firm still expects Sovaldi volume to grow in the near term, by 7% quarter-over-quarter in Q2, Liang said in a note to investors Wednesday. After Gilead launches its sofosbuvir-lidipasvir combo, anticipated later this year, the numbers will leap again, he said.

Many a drugmaker would be thrilled to post $2.27 billion in full-year sales, after a product has had a couple of years to build up market share. That amount for a first full year postlaunch? It still breaks the previous record, held by Vertex Pharmaceuticals' ($VRTX) Incivek.

Oddly enough, some new numbers out today show that another big new drug has joined the exclusive club of meds that hit blockbuster status during their first four quarters on the market. Read more from FiercePharmaMarketing >>