Sovaldi forces Incivek off the hep C market as Vertex calls it quits

Vertex is discontinuing sales of Incivek.--Courtesy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Bye-bye, Incivek. Just three years after nabbing the "fastest drug launch ever" award, maker Vertex is discontinuing the hepatitis C med on withering demand. For that, the Cambridge-based company has Gilead Sciences--owner of the new fastest drug launch ever--to thank.

According to a Monday letter to healthcare providers, Vertex ($VRTX) will put the kibosh on sales and distribution of the one-time blockbuster by October 16. The company said it made the decision in view of diminishing market share and "available alternative treatments"--read: Sovaldi.

The revolutionary Gilead ($GILD) drug, which cures 90% of patients after a 12-week treatment course, has taken a serious toll on Incivek sales. In 2012 and 2013, Incivek drove the majority of the company's revenues. But as of last quarter, Incivek revenues made up just 8% of the company's top line haul; in the first 6 months of this year, sales of the treatment crashed to $13.2 million--a 96% drop from the $361.4 million Incivek generated in the same period last year.

"The decline in the number of patients starting treatment was significant, and there's been a continued decline," a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot.

The $84,000-per-regimen Sovaldi, on the other hand, has raked in since its launch despite payer pushback on its high price tag. The drug posted a record-breaking $2.27 billion in Q1, following up with a $3.5 billion showing that crushed analyst estimates.

Vertex's move doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Earlier this year, the company announced it would be bowing out of hep C R&D, outlicensing its remaining drug for the condition, VX-135

So what's next for Vertex? The Massachusetts company will keep doubling down on Kalydeco, a wonder drug for cystic fibrosis. Vertex is working on expanding the orphan drug's label, and those efforts have so far proved fruitful. Most recently, the drugmaker widened its patient pool by about 250 with an EMA approval for 8 non-G551D gating mutations.

- read the letter (PDF)
- get more from Pharmalot

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