According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 3.5 million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis C, with 70% of cases considered genotype 1.2 Following a 2017 commitment to lower out-of-pocket drug costs, Merck now announced that the cost of Zepatier will be reduced by 60%.
The company also announced that the costs of several other medications will be reduced by 10%, and that they will not raise the average net price of prescription drugs across the company’s portfolio (except to account for inflation). Merck’s decision follows recent trends by other pharmaceutical companies, including commitments by Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, and Bayer to delay or halt planned drug-price increases.3 According to the press release, Merck will continue to “look for opportunities to further reduce costs for patients and the healthcare system”.4
Zepatier was approved for its current usage by the Food & Drug Administration in 2016, and is typically prescribed for a period of 12 to 16 weeks.5 Like other combination, direct-acting antivirals, Zepatier can be highly effective in a short amount of time, especially as compared to non-combination or older treatments. However, with limited generic options available, direct-acting antivirals remain expensive, and many patients struggle to pay for the often out-of-pocket treatment.6
Zepatier. "What Is Zepatier?" Zepatier, Merck, www.zepatier.com/what-is-zepatier/. Accessed 23 July 2018.
Division of Viral Hepatitis, and National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. "Hepatitis C Questions and Answers for Health Professionals." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Apr. 2018, www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm. Accessed 23 July 2018.
"More Drugmakers Commit to Freezing US Drug Prices This Year." FirstWorld Pharma, 20 July 2018, www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1580118?tsid=28®ion_id=2#axzz5M55rRm4O. Accessed 23 July 2018.
"Merck Reinforces Commitment to Responsible Pricing." Merck, 19 July 2018, www.mrknewsroom.com/news-release/corporate-news/merck-reinforces-commitment-responsible-pricing. Accessed 23 July 2018.
"FDA Approves Zepatier for Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C Genotypes 1 and 4." U.S. Food & Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 28 Jan. 2016, www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm483828.htm. Accessed 23 July 2018.
Downward, Emily. "Antiviral Treatment for Chronic HCV – Then and Now." HepatitisC.net, Health Union, hepatitisc.net/treatment/antiviral-therapy/. Accessed 23 July 2018.