Cheaper hep C drug enters competitive market

June 30, 2016

A new drug approved by FDA to treat chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection this week enters a competitive, lucrative market headed up by Gilead Science’s Sovaldi and Harvoni, as well as AbbVie’s Viekira Pak. FDA granted priority review and breakthrough therapy designation to Gilead’s combination product, Epclusa (sofosbuvir 400 mg/velpatasvir 100 mg).

A new drug approved by FDA to treat chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection this week enters a competitive, lucrative market headed up by Gilead Science’s Sovaldi and Harvoni, as well as AbbVie’s Viekira Pak.

FDA granted priority review and breakthrough therapy designation to Gilead’s combination product, Epclusa (sofosbuvir 400 mg/velpatasvir 100 mg). The drug is the first all-oral, pan-genotypic, single tablet regimen for the treatment of adults with genotype 1-6 chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and the first single tablet regimen approved for the treatment of patients with HCV genotype 2 and 3, without the need for ribavirin.

Epclusa for 12 weeks was also approved in patients without cirrhosis or with compensated cirrhosis (Child-Pugh A), and in combination with ribavirin (RBV) for patients with decompensated cirrhosis (Child-Pugh B or C).

Related: CVS Health commits to Gilead's hepatitis C drugs

The new combination of Sovaldi and Epclusa costs slightly less than market leaders Sovaldi and Harvoni, at $74,760 for a 12-week regimen, according to Gilead, compared to $84,000 for Sovaldi and $94,500 for Harvoni.

“Gilead believes the pricing of Epclusa will facilitate access for the US population with the greatest unmet medical need: patients with genotypes 2 and 3 who previously required more complex and costly multi-tablet regimens,” said Cara Miller, spokesperson for Gilead. “For genotype 3 patients in particular, the cost of Epclusa will be half the cost of the most commonly used regimen (sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir).”

The drug will be available to wholesalers by July 1.

“The approval of Epclusa represents an important step forward in the global effort to control and potentially eliminate HCV as it provides a safe, simple and effective cure for the majority of HCV-infected patients, regardless of genotype,” said Ira Jacobson, MD, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, New York City and a principal investigator in the Epclusa clinical trials. “Building on the established backbone of sofosbuvir, Epclusa demonstrated consistently high cure rates across all genotypes, including among patients with genotype 2 and 3, who traditionally have required ribavirin or other multi-pill regimens.”

Epclusa’s approval is supported by data from four international phase 3 studies, ASTRAL-1, ASTRAL-2, ASTRAL-3 and ASTRAL-4. In the ASTRAL-1, ASTRAL-2 and ASTRAL-3 studies, 1,035 patients with genotype 1-6 chronic HCV infection, without cirrhosis or with compensated cirrhosis received 12 weeks of Epclusa.

Related: FDA warns about serious reactions to Harvoni, Sovaldi

Of the 1,035 patients treated with Epclusa for 12 weeks in the ASTRAL-1, ASTRAL-2 and ASTRAL-3 studies, 1,015 (98%) achieved SVR12 (hepatitis C was undetectable for 12 or more weeks after treatment). In ASTRAL-4, patients with decompensated cirrhosis receiving Epclusa with RBV for 12 weeks achieved a high SVR12 rate (94%) compared to those who received Epclusa for 12 weeks or 24 weeks (83% and 86%, respectively).

Headache and fatigue were the most common adverse reactions experienced by HCV-infected patients treated with Epclusa in ASTRAL-1, ASTRAL-2 and ASTRAL-3 and occurred at a similar or higher frequency in placebo-treated patients. In the 87 HCV-infected patients with decompensated cirrhosis treated with Epclusa and ribavirin in the ASTRAL-4 study, fatigue, anemia, nausea, headache, insomnia and diarrhea were the most common adverse reactions.

Epclusa carries a warning for patients and health care providers that serious slowing of the heart rate (symptomatic bradycardia) and cases requiring pacemaker intervention have been reported when amiodarone is used with sofosbuvir in combination with another HCV direct-acting antiviral.

Co-administration of amiodarone with Epclusa is not recommended. Epclusa also carries a warning not to use with certain drugs that may reduce the amount of Epclusa in the blood which could lead to reduced efficacy of Epclusa.

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