NHS England partners with Gilead, Merck, AbbVie in billion-pound hepatitis C eradication push

Gilead won the top spot in a massive hepatitis C drug contract in England. (Gilead China)

As states in the U.S. partner with hepatitis C drug makers on Netflix-style, flat-rate drug contracts, England just teamed with three drugmakers in its own massive effort to eradicate the disease. 

NHS England signed on with Gilead Sciences, Merck & Co. and AbbVie to purchase hepatitis C drugs at competitive prices and implement programs to find patients around the country. The government awarded Gilead “gold status” for hepatitis C drug procurement, Gilead said, meaning the company "provided the best value to the NHS both in terms of the price of their products as well as commitment and proven ability to support patient-finding."

NHS says five new hepatitis C meds from the three drugmakers will be available at the "best prices" for the agency and taxpayers. The deal grew from procurement talks that started last February. 

The contract will be worth almost £1 billion, the NHS has said. AbbVie previously sued NHS England over the procurement talks, but a judge tossed that case in January. The lawsuit delayed the program's rollout by six months, NHS said.

The tender is expected to last three years, Gilead's spokeswoman added.

Gilead is "delighted to partner with NHS England" on the hepatitis C treatment push, Gilead's U.K. and Ireland general manager Hilary Hutton-Squire said in a statement. “This will allow us to continue to play a critical role, together with our partners, in delivering patient-finding support programs,” she said.

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

NHS England’s deal follows only days after Washington state partnered with AbbVie on its own Netflix-style hepatitis C contract. The flat-rate procurement arrangements allow governments unlimited access to drugs for a fixed price. Governments are able to treat patients who typically get short shrift under current payment models, and they save money in the long run by preventing the costly and devastating complications of hepatitis C.

NHS England previously said it would work with hepatitis C drug companies to identify infected patients who need treatment. An estimated 113,000 patients in England live with the disease. The World Health Organization has set a goal of eliminating hepatitis C worldwide by 2030. Last year, NHS England said its hepatitis C drug procurement would be the “single largest” drugs order in its history. 

Both deals come after Gilead scored a deal with Louisiana to supply hepatitis C drugs for the state’s Medicaid patients and for those in the state’s prisons.

Editor's note: This story was updated to remove a reference to NHS England's prior goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2025.

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