1. Zepatier


Active ingredient: elbasvir/grazoprevir
Disease: hepatitis C
Peak sales estimate: $2 billion
Approved: Jan. 28
Company: Merck & Co.

The scoop: As a latecomer into the hepatitis C market, Merck’s two-drug combo Zepatier has to face the formidable Gilead, which has Sovaldi and the revolutionary combo Harvoni in its arsenal. The New Jersey-based pharma’s strategy is to offer a lower list price in combination with a discount. Zepatier’s price of $54,600 for a standard 12-week treatment period is significantly lower than the $94,500 wholesale price for Harvoni and the $83,300 tag for AbbVie’s Viekira. Even though experts have previously projected a 15% market share—$2 billion in 2020 sales—for Zepatier, it’s become even harder for others to shake Gilead’s dominant position as its new hep C combo Epclusa was approved in June. In an HCV drug patent fight between the two pharmas that temporarily ended in June with a federal court ruling, Merck was just inches away from collecting $200 million plus the possibility of pursuing royalties from ongoing sales of Gilead’s Harvoni and Sovaldi, but instead forged its own failure, thanks to the dubious deposition of an in-house lawyer. -- Angus Liu


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