BERLIN, 13 April (APM) - Merck Sharp & Dohme and Gilead are slashing prices of their hepatitis C drugs Zepatier and Epclusa in Germany to ease prescriptions, APM has learned.
MSD is cutting the price of Zepatier (elbasvir+grazoprevir) by 20% on 15 April, according to a pharmacists' source. Its retail price will be €8,666.67 per 28-pill pack, equivalent to a four-week therapy. The 12-week therapy will cost €26,000.
In a parallel move, Gilead is cutting the price of one of its four hepatitis C new drugs, Epclusa (sofosbuvir+velpatasvir) by 33% from 1 May, the company told APM on Friday. Its retail price will be €11,652.48 per 28-pill pack, equivalent to a four-week therapy. The twelve-week therapy will cost just under €35,000.
However, the real cost of a therapy for German health insurance is lower as many statutory health insurance companies have negotiated discounts, which remain confidential.
With these latest cuts, Zepatier's retail price has fallen by 26% since launch and Epclusa's price by 48%, according to APM records.
Both drugs were approved in the EU in July 2016. Epclusa was launched in Germany as soon as it was approved (APMHE 48803
) whereas MSD launched Zepatier three months later in November 2016 (APMHE 50587
Epclusa is approved for adults with chronic hepatitis C genotypes 1-6 whereas Zepatier is indicated for patients with genotypes 1 or 4.
"The market for drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C is very volatile and highly dynamic. Against this background, MSD has decided to lower the price for Zepatier," a MSD spokeswoman told APM on Friday.
Gilead has said it is determined to eradicate HCV in Germany.
"Our goal is the healing of people with HCV and the elimination of HCV. We therefore want as many HCV patients as possible in Germany to be treated with Epclusa," said Gilead Germany's general manager Carsten Nowotsch in a statement to APM on Friday.
"The discussion about prices threatened to override this goal. The now reduced pharmacy sales price offers transparency and security for all parties involved and thus a possibility to treat and cure HCV patients optimally," he added.
As in other countries, the launch of direct antivirals (DAA) with high prices - starting with Gilead's Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) from 2014 - in Germany has initiated a debate on the sustainability of their costs for health insurance.
Physicians have refrained from prescribing the new drugs for fear of facing health insurers’ demands for reimbursement of prescriptions in case they would consider them as not economically efficient.
However, the discount agreements now negotiated for almost all DAA launched have partly lifted these fears.