Mavyret maker AbbVie slaps NHS England with lawsuit over hepatitis C drug procurement: report

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AbbVie has sued health officials in England for allegedly breaching procurement rules in a hep C drug bidding process. (Pixabay)

In an aggressive push to end hepatitis C in England, health authorities there are in the process of weighing bids in NHS England's “largest ever” drug procurement process. But AbbVie isn’t happy with the negotiations, and it’s suing the health service for treating bidders unfairly, according to England’s Health Service Journal (HSJ). 

AbbVie, which makes the fast-growing Mavyret, claimed the National Health Service broke procurement rules in its effort to buy hundreds of millions of pounds worth of hepatitis C drugs, HSJ reported. The NHS wants to buy the drugs in bulk to keep costs down as it works to eliminate hep C in England by 2025. 

Along with AbbVie, Gilead Sciences and Merck & Co. have also bid, according to the publication. Merck is known as MSD in England.

A spokesperson for AbbVie told HSJ that the company "has entered into legal action against NHS England. We cannot comment any further as the legal proceedings are not yet concluded.” 

NHS England denied the allegations, according to HSJ. Both parties are preparing for a trial. 

NHS England originally wanted to get the drugs to patients starting in October, but an expert with the British Liver Trust told HSJ that stakeholders were told the program is delayed until January at the earliest. 

NHS England wants to buy large quantities of new hep C antivirals with high efficacy and a more tolerable side effect profile than older drugs. Gilead’s Sovaldi launched in the class first, back in 2014, and brought in megablockbuster sales, followed by Gilead's own Harvoni. The California biotech's initial success in hep C has waned over time as newer competitors have launched—including AbbVie’s Mavyret. 

Since its launch last year, AbbVie's pan-genotypic hep C drug Mavyret has been on a tear for the company. In the third quarter, the Illinois drugmaker's hep C revenues came in at $862 million.