Express Scripts ready to favor AbbVie hep C prospect--provided it undercuts Gilead

The pharmacy benefits manager ($ESRX)--which has made its feelings well known when it comes to the high cost of Gilead's ($GILD) next-gen hepatitis C drugs--says it may quickly change its preferred drug formulary to favor an anticipated challenger from the Illinois company ($ABBV), Reuters reports, provided it's clinically equivalent--and less expensive, of course.

On a Wednesday conference call with analysts, CEO Steve Miller echoed comments he's made time and again since the $84,000-per-treatment-course Sovaldi--which broke the record for fastest drug launch ever and now makes up half the biotech's brand-new $94,500 combo regimen, Harvoni--rolled out. "The cost of it is unsustainable for many of our plans," he said, as quoted by the news service.

While Express Scripts has been pinning its hopes on eventual competitors--earlier this year, it began assembling a coalition to exclude Sovaldi until lower-cost rivals hit the market, forcing prices down--there's no guarantee AbbVie or others will undercut Gilead's trailblazers. A spokeswoman for the North Chicago company told Reuters no price has been disclosed for the investigational drug, which AbbVie hopes can win approval and launch before year's end.


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