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From Inflection To Insight: Vertex And Merck’s Dueling HCV Drugs

Executive Summary

Welcome to Inflection to Insight, a new series taking a closer look at notable chapters in biopharma history, gleaning learnings to inform current business strategy. This inaugural instalment looks at the rapid rise and fall of two competing drugs for hepatitis C virus, Vertex’s Incivek and Merck & Co’s Victrelis.

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Merck's Victrelis still lags Incivek despite improvement in Europe

Merck & Co's Victrelis has upped its market share in the battle of the protease inhibitors, but it still lags a long way behind Vertex Pharmaceuticals/Janssen's Incivek/Incivo. Victrelis (boceprevir) has grown its share to over 40% in the US (compared with around 25% in autumn last year) and even exceeded 50% in some markets, including France, Germany, Canada, Norway and Denmark, according to Merck's head of global human health, Adam Schechter.

Merck defends Victrelis as sales are dwarfed by Incivek

Adam Schechter, president of Merck & Co's global human health business, endeavoured to put a positive spin on the meagre sales reported by the company's new hepatitis C drug Victrelis (boceprevir), which is competing with Vertex/Johnson & Johnson's Incivek/Incivo (telaprevir), the other protease inhibitor that was launched in May.

Vertex's Next Steps Closely Watched Following Merck-Roche Deal On Victrelis

All eyes are on Vertex Pharmaceuticals and whether it will change course and seek a marketing partner following the May 17 announcement that Merck and Roche will co-promote Merck’s newly approved hepatitis C drug Victrelis (boceprevir).

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