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Gilead's Hepatitis C Pill Takes Off Like A Rocket
Gilead's Sovaldi, for the liver disease hepatitis C, the most important drug of 2013. If early prescriptions are a measure of importance, they back me up. Gilead's launch of Sovaldi is looking like the fastest drug launch ever. Hepatitis C afflicts an estimated 3 million Americans.
The chart below, from ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum, tracks the number of Sovaldi prescriptions written by doctors according to data tracker IMS Health (this is labeled as TRx) against the launch of Vertex's Incivek, another hepatitis C drug that was until now the fastest drug launch ever, and against the combination of Incivek and Merck's competing drug, Victrelis. Schoenebaum also draws in his own forecast of what Sovaldi would have to do to reach $5 billion in sales in its first year on the market.
That's right - I said $5 billion. And Sovaldi (the red line) is way, way ahead of that forecast. In fact, the prescription numbers seem to be going straight up.


Courtesy Mark Schoenebaum, ISI Group
There are still reasons some investors might question Gilead's valuation. It may be that there are fewer hepatitis C patients than drug companies and public health officals think. It may be that Gilead gets blowback for the high cost of the drug - $84,000 per course. It may be that other entrants, from AbbVie ABBV -1.41% or Merck, for instance, will prove good enough or inexpensive enough to take market share or even force a price war. It's possible that insurance companies will push back.
But having a product that is selling fast is a good problem to have.
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