Teva rolls out exclusive generic of Gilead's Viread at the end of an awful week

Teva is launching an exclusive generic to Gilead's Viread in the U.S.

Amid the turmoil of massive jobs cuts, Teva Pharmaceutical was able to put out a piece of good news on Friday. It's launching an exclusive generic to Gilead Sciences' hepatitis B and HIV antiviral Viread, a product the company says pulled in about $750 million over the last year.

Under a 2013 patent settlement with Gilead, Teva gets to launch an exclusive copycat to the branded med that won its initial U.S. approval in 2001. The settlement also covered patents on Gilead's HIV antivirals Truvada and Atripla, according to Gilead's most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, but generic launch dates for those meds remain under wraps.

Viread's annual sales were about $762 million up to October 2017, according to IMS data cited by Teva.

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An exclusive generic launch couldn't come at a better time for Teva. The company has been battered as generic pricing conditions worsened in recent quarters, and this week it announced a staggering round of 14,000 layoffs. The goal under new CEO Kåre Schultz is to save $3 billion a year during dire times at the drugmaker.

The company has been grappling with executive turnover, as well, most recently with the loss of its U.S. generics CEO Andy Boyer, according to a Thursday note from Wells Fargo analyst David Maris.

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For Gilead, the Viread competition comes during a period of change. The drugmaker's hep C sales have crashed after tremendous initial success with Sovaldi and Harvoni, and the company is looking to cancer care as one potential path forward. Total antiviral sales at Gilead came in at $5.8 billion for the third quarter, compared with $6.8 billion during the same period last year.

For several quarters while the company's hep C sales were in their freefall, investors and analysts continually badgered Gilead leadership for M&A. Finally, Gilead in August picked up leading CAR-T player Kite Pharma for $12 billion in a significant push into cancer.

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Kite's Yescarta has since won an FDA approval, following Novartis into a field that some experts believe could become a cornerstone of cancer treatment. In the short term, however, payer obstacles are taking a toll on the rollout, according to a report this week from Bloomberg. The news service reports that only 5 patients have received the one-time treatment that costs $373,000.