When your drug sets a record for the fastest launch in history, everyone wants a piece of it.
That's the case with Gilead Sciences' hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, which drew a record $2.27 billion in revenue in its first full quarter on the market. The Foster City, California-based company is competing with Merck, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers, Johnson & Johnson and others to treat an estimated 150 million people worldwide with drugs that are easier to take and have higher cure rates for hepatitis C.
Merck's $3.85 billion acquisition of Idenix, announced Monday, gives it additional experimental medicines to add to its arsenal. Idenix is developing a medicine in a class called "nucs," or nucleotide polymerase inhibitors, a valuable part of new treatment regimens.
In announcing the deal, Merck also reinforced expectations for the size and durability of the hepatitis C market.
"They seem to endorse a 2018 worldwide hepatitis C sales estimate of more than $20 billion," ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum wrote in a research note.
Gilead is still considered the leader, but its stock is down 3.9 percent. So what's up? (To get the latest quote for Gilead, click here.)