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MSD pulls out of hep C space to Gilead’s relief

Published on 02/10/17 at 08:54am

MSD, known as Merck in North America, has announced that it will curtail its attempts to make an impact in the hepatitis C space, citing a crowded marketplace as its reason.

The reality is that Gilead has been able to build such a strong lead in the space, and with AbbVie making progress with Mavyret, there was little room for another player.

In particular, this will see MSD stop the development of the combination regimens including MK-3682B and MK-2682C, alongside its existing Zepatier treatment. The combination therapy had reached Phase 2 stage before MSD decided to pull the plug, based on the data.

MSD joins another pharma giant, in Johnson & Johnson, by giving up at the Phase 2 stage on a new treatment. Not only are there too many players in the market but treatments are now so effective that population numbers of those to be treated are dwindling.

Gilead is currently struggling to stop its sales in the area from plummeting by expanding into new markets, such as its recent move into China, and increasing awareness of the condition within established markets.

Despite this, sales of its hep C portfolio have dropped from $4 billion in the second quarter of 2016 to $2.9 billion in 2017. It will come as a relief to Gilead that another large company is staying away from its market area but future prospects in the area looks unlikely to generate much growth for the company.

In response, it has turned to the CAR T treatment area, with its $11.9 billion deal for Kite Pharma. For MSD, it also has a focus on the immunotherapy space – by continuing to expand its indications for Keytruda.

“Remarkable progress has been made in the fight against hepatitis C infection, and MSD is enormously proud of the role we have had in that fight over the past 30 years,” said Eliav Barr, Senior Vice President, Global Clinical Development, Infectious Diseases and Vaccines, MSD Research Laboratories. “We will continue to study Zepatier to understand even more about its role in treating chronic hepatitis C infection and will continue to work with others to help bring Zepatier to appropriate patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 or 4 infection, the genotypes which make up the majority of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection.”

Ben Hargreaves

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