Merck Targets Toughest Cases to Gain Hepatitis C Foothold

Merck & Co. plans to target hard-to-treat hepatitis C patients with its cure for the liver ailment rather than compete for market share by drastically undercutting the price of Gilead Sciences Inc.’s $1,000-a-day treatment.

Merck said Tuesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted its application for approval of the single pill, which combines the medications grazoprevir and elbasvir, and granted the medicine a priority review. That means Merck is on course to introduce the treatment to the market early next year.

The field for hepatitis C patients is currently divided between AbbVie Inc. and Gilead, which have locked up arrangements with the leading managers of drug coverage in U.S. health insurance plans, ensuring their medications are the first choice. Still, Merck doesn’t foresee trouble attracting patients.


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