Express Scripts Pens Exclusive Deal for Abbvie Hepatitis C Drug

Express Scripts has dropped Solvaldi, Harvoni, and Olysio in favor of an exclusive deal with the drug maker AbbVie Inc. to prescribe its newly approved hepatitis C drug called Viekira Pak, according to a statement from the prescription drug-benefits management company.

Express Scripts has dropped Solvaldi, Harvoni, and Olysio in favor of an exclusive deal with the drug maker AbbVie Inc. to prescribe its newly approved hepatitis C drug called Viekira Pak, according to a statement from the prescription drug-benefits management company.

“Express Scripts and AbbVie have a single focus: do what's right for hepatitis C patients,” Steve Miller, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Express Scripts, said in the statement. “For the first time, a pharmaceutical manufacturer and a pharmacy benefit manager have created an agreement to deliver on the promise of a curative therapy for hepatitis C patients. Pharmaceutical innovation must be rewarded based on the value it brings to patients and payers. This agreement marks a fundamental change in how sustainable access and affordability will be delivered to hepatitis C patients.”

Express Scripts serves the insurance industry andmanages the medical prescription benefits of millions of patients for many employers nationwide. The announcement of the exclusive deal with AbbVie came less than a week after the Food and Drug Administration approved Viekira Pak, a combination tablet that includes the antiviral drugs ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir along with a dasabuvir tablet, to treat patients with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C.

Health officials estimate that at least 3 million people in the United States have the hepatitis C virus, which if left untreated can severely damage the liver over time. The Viekira Pak is the latest among a group of all-oral hepatitis C treatment regimens recently approved by the FDA that work faster and have higher cure rates and fewer serious side effects.

The decision by Express Scripts to make Viekira Pak its preferred treatment for patients with chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 follows months of debate over the cost of Sovaldi, the Gilead Sciences hepatitis C drug approved late last year. Sovaldi sells in the United States for about $1000 per pill, adding up to $84,000 for a typical 12-week treatment period, a cost that has prompted some to suggest giving the drug to only the sickest of patients.

AbbVie and Express Scripts reportedly struck a discount deal but the details were not revealed. The company statement said the agreement significantly expands access to Viekira Pak, which will be available for all clinically appropriate plan memberscovered by the Express Scripts National Preferred Formulary.

Responding to the announcement, Gilead said in a statement that company officials have been “negotiating in good faith” with Express Scripts and other payers to ensure access to its medications. “We continue to engage with Express Scripts and hope to have meaningful discussions that focus on the best interests of patients with hepatitis C,” the Gilead statement said.

Starting next month on January 1, Express Scripts will exclude Sovaldi, Harvoni and Olysio, with some exceptions, from its formulary, according to the statement. Harvoni, also sold by Gilead, is a newly approved combination pill that patients take once daily, while Olysio is a Janssen Therapeutics drug used with other antiviral drugs to treat the hepatitis C virus.

The Express Scripts decision allows covered patients who already began treatment regimens using Sovaldi, Harvoni and Olysio to continue with those drugs and it provides Sovaldi for patients with advanced liver disease who have other hepatitis C genotypes, according to the company statement.