Express Scripts Says Still Reviewing Gilead Drugs

Gilead Sciences Inc.’s top-selling hepatitis C drug, Harvoni, has been removed from Express Scripts Holding Co.’s list of excluded drugs for next year and will be reviewed for potential coverage, according to the pharmacy benefits manager.

Gilead is facing a number of challenges in sustaining the record-breaking sales from its hepatitis pills. With both AbbVie Inc. and Merck & Co. offering similar products, prices are being driven down. AbbVie had signed an exclusive deal with Express Scripts in December 2014, which helped it to get a foothold in the market despite having a less convenient treatment than Gilead.

Express Scripts removed Harvoni from its list of formulary exclusions for 2017, according to a document published Monday. It will continue to exclude Merck’s drug Zepatier and Gilead’s other hepatitis C treatment, Sovaldi. Since Harvoni can be used for only eight weeks in some patients, compared with 12 weeks on Sovaldi, many doctors in the U.S. are already opting for the shorter-duration therapy.

David Whitrap, an Express Scripts spokesman, said Tuesday the company is reviewing coverage of Harvoni and hasn’t yet made a final assessment as to where on the formulary the drug will end up, if it’s added. It’s also reviewing Epclusa, Gilead’s recently approved hepatitis C drug.

Harvoni’s U.S. sales in the second quarter were $1.47 billion, while Sovaldi earned $775 million.

Shares of Foster City, California-based Gilead gained 1.2 percent to close at $80.46 in New York Monday. They have slid 20 percent this year. AbbVie rose 1.1 percent to $66.94.

(Corrects status of coverage decision in first and fourth paragraphs.)
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