Merck Will No Longer Sell its Victrelis Hepatitis C Drug in the U.S.

Rival hepatitis C drugs from Merck and Vertex Pharmaceuticals VRTX +0.21% made a big splash when they debuted in 2011, marking an advance in treatment of the liver disease and a lucrative new market segment. But now the Class of 2011 has almost sunk to the bottom, made obsolete by a newer wave of drugs, a sign of how rapidly the hepatitis C market is changing.

Merck this week notified the FDA that it will stop selling its Victrelis medicine in the U.S. by the end of this year, although the drug will remain available in other countries. The move comes three months after Vertex Pharmaceuticals discontinued U.S. sales of its own Incivek hepatitis C drug.

Both drugs are known as protease inhibitors and when they became available in 2011, they were quickly incorporated into treatment. Victrelis and Incivek each boosted cure rates and shortened treatment durations for many patients when added to the prior standard treatment.

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