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AbbVie Prices Hepatitis C Drug 12% Below Gilead Rival

|Includes: ABBV, ENTA, Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD)

AbbVie Prices Hepatitis C Drug 12% Below Gilead Rival

By Anna Edney and Caroline Chen

AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:ABBV) and Enanta Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ENTA)'s hepatitis C combination drug will be about 12 percent cheaper than its rival from Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD), setting the stage for fierce competition for patients of the liver virus.

The cocktail of pills, which will be sold under the name Viekira Pak, will cost $83,319 for a 12-week course of treatment, AbbVie said today. The Food and Drug Administration cleared Viekira Pak for sale to patients with the U.S.'s most common strain of the virus, genotype 1, according to a statement from the agency.

The price "reflects the value we believe Viekira Pak brings to hepatitis C patients and the health-care system," said Morry Smulevitz, a spokesman for AbbVie.

Viekira Pak could generate $2.9 billion in sales next year, according to the average of three analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The revenue will help North Chicago, Illinois-based AbbVie expand its sources of revenue beyond best-seller Humira, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment that is projected by analysts to bring in $12.6 billion this year.

Like Gilead's combination treatment Harvoni, which was approved in October at $94,500 for a 12-week course, Viekira Pak is an all-oral medication that doesn't require immune system-boosting shots that can have flu-like side effects and are used with older treatments.

AbbVie's combination will require most patients to take four to six pills a day for 12 weeks, compared with one pill a day for Gilead's drug. If patients have a subtype called genotype 1a and cirrhosis, a condition that scars the liver and affects functioning, they may have to take the drug for 24 weeks, according to an FDA update.

Drug prices have attracted the ire of U.S. lawmakers and insurers since Gilead priced its hepatitis C drug Sovaldi at $84,000 for a 12-week regimen. Sovaldi was approved about a year ago and is part of the combination drug Harvoni.

Disclosure: The author is long GILD.