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AbbVie to challenge Gilead on hepatitis C front in Korea
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.05.30 16:28
  • Updated 2018.05.30 16:28
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AbbVie Korea’s winning of reimbursement for its hepatitis C treatment Mavyret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir) may threaten Gilead Sciences Korea, a giant player in hepatitis C therapies.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Mavyret will be reimbursed from June and will cost around 10 million won ($10,000) for eight weeks of treatment. The therapy has yet to be launched.

Mavyret is the only U.S. FDA-approved hepatitis C drug to treat all six genotypes (type 1-6) with no liver scarring. AbbVie won the FDA approval last August as well as go-aheads from regulators in the European Union and Japan. It gained domestic approval in January.

In the U.S., AbbVie recorded hepatitis C sales of around $919 million, eating into the hep C market long dominated by Gilead. Gilead Sciences reported a 21 percent decline in total revenues for the first quarter of this year as the sales of its hepatitis C therapies dropped 60 percent to $1 billion, according to FiercePharma.

In Korea, news of AbbVie’s reimbursement coincided with a press conference by Gilead Sciences Korea that announced price cuts for its hepatitis C therapies Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) and Sovaldi (sofosbuvir).

Jeong Yeon-sim, a director of Gilead Sciences Korea, talks about the price cuts for Harvoni, at a news conference in Seoul, Tuesday.

“The therapies that cost around 20 to 25 million won will be reduced to the 10 million won to 19 million won range,” said Jeong Yeon-sim, director of regulatory and market access at Gilead Sciences Korea. Jeong added that the price of Sovaldi and Harvoni will be cut by 56.3 percent and 48.3 percent, respectively.

The timing of the local price cuts have led to speculation that Gilead Sciences Korea is bracing for competition in the domestic market with Mavyret now in the mix. But Gilead Sciences Korea stressed that it lowered costs to increase treatment accessibility for patients.

“Gilead Sciences Korea has thought that adjusting the price of the therapy was needed in case the number of diagnosed patients increased due to expanded screening for hepatitis C,” said Jeong.

Regarding which one is better, Professor Choi Moon-seok from the department of gastroenterology at Samsung Medical Center told reporters that the treatment effect would be similar between the two.

“Harvoni has the advantage for patients with decompensated cirrhosis because it doesn’t have the protease inhibitor and it can also be used in patients in a serious condition,” Professor Choi said. “Mavyret has a lower Creatinine Clearance, which means it can be used in patients with chronic kidney disease.”

Sovaldi treats genotype 1, 2, 3, 4 chronic hepatitis C patients and is used in combination with ribavirin. Harvoni treats adults with hepatitis C genotypes 1, 4, 5, and 6. In Korea, Sovaldi recorded sales of 83.2 billion won ($77.2 million) and Harvoni 15.5 billion won ($14.3 million) last year, according to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service.


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