Merck and Roche join forces to sell, develop blockbuster hep C cocktails

Two pharma powerhouses, Merck and Roche, are joining forces to market the newly-approved boceprevir and develop new hepatitis C cocktail treatments from their stock of existing and experimental meds.

Roche says it will promote Victrelis (boceprevir) to physicians as part of a triple combination therapy regimen, starting with the United States, while Merck and Roche will collaborate on educating physicians and patients about hepatitis C, including diagnosis. The companies are also planning to work together to extend the agreement to other developed and emerging markets globally.  

This new pact underscores the bright future that lies ahead for new cocktail therapies that promise to cure hepatitis C quickly and make it a more manageable disease for millions of people. It also reflects the major marketing forces that are being brought to bear here as new treatments offering major improvements to the current drug standards are approved. Vertex is considered the odds-on favorite for an FDA approval of its hep C treatment telaprevir later this month. And more treatments are in the pipeline in pursuit of a market that is expected to swell from $3 billion to $10 billion in just a few years.

"Triple combination therapy for hepatitis C marks a major change in the way this disease is treated," said Pascal Soriot, the COO of Roche Pharmaceuticals Division. "The use of these medicines in combination offers better treatment outcomes for patients. Roche will work with Merck to provide health care professionals and patients with education about the management of hepatitis C. Both companies will also collaborate to develop improved therapies for this serious disease."

- here's the Merck release