Gilead's hepatitis C generics are on their way, but Epclusa's getting TV ads anyway

Gilead launches a first ad campaign for hep C fighter Epclusa even as it preps a generic option rollout. (CNW Group/Gilead Sciences, Inc.)

Gilead Sciences isn't letting a few of its own generics interfere with advertising its pan-genotypic hep C drug Epclusa. The Big Biotech is turning to TV again to promote its hep C franchise, this time with a commercial that highlights Epclusa's versatility across different strains of the disease.

The TV commercial features multiple patients disclosing details about their individual hep C infections, such as whether the viral strain was rare or common, whether they are symptomatic, and whether they're newly diagnosed or long knew they had the disease.

The January-launched campaign, “Your Kind of Cure,” is multichannel and includes digital, print, point of care and social promotions, a Gilead spokesperson said via email. The effort “focuses on product attributes of importance to patients when considering a cure for their HCV based on market research," Gilead said. 

Gilead broke marketing ground with Harvoni and its first-ever branded hepatitis C commercial in 2015. The drug quickly followed its sister drug Sovaldi to blockbusterland, before competition, a shrinking customer base and hard-bargaining payers ate into Gilead’s share and profits.

RELATED: Gilead pushes hep C testing in baby boomers as its blockbusters plummet

And it's that payer and competitive pressure that has prompted Gilead to gin up authorized generic versions of both Epclusa and Harvoni—a decade before patents on the hep C drugs expire.The company plans to roll its copycats through a new subsidiary, Asegua Therapeutics, at a price of $24,000 early this year, the pharma announced last fall.

Gilead CEO John Milligan said in a statement at the time that the unusual decision was made because “it is the fastest way to lower list prices for our HCV cures without significant disruption to the healthcare system and our business.”

RELATED: Gilead's Harvoni ads go from before to after with new creative focused on hep C cure

The company has faced a steep and quick decline in revenue for its next-gen hepatitis C drugs that in almost all cases cure the disease. Competitors like AbbVie’s Mavyret pan-genotypic treatment, which is also running a TV campaign, along with aggressive pushes for price cuts dimmed Gilead sales after just a few years on the market.

Sales of all four of its chronic hepatitis C (HCV) drugs—Harvoni, Epclusa, Sovaldi and Vosevi—were $902 million for the most recent 3rd quarter 2018, down by more than half from same-quarter sales of $2.2 billion in 2017. Global nine months sales through September were $2.95 billion, down from $7.64 billion during the same period in 2017.