Gilead's hepatitis C medicine Sovaldi drew a record $2.27 billion in revenue in its first quarter on the market, putting it on pace for the fastest drug launch of all time.
Its success isn't just the result of its controversial $84,000 price tag. The market for the drug is huge—an estimated 150 million people worldwide, and 3.2 million in the U.S., have the chronic liver disease.
But there's a new kid on the block in liver disorders, which one analyst suggested may be "the next big global epidemic." It's called NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
It's got the same characteristics of alcoholic liver disease but arises in folks who don't drink too much alcohol, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which estimates NASH affects 2 percent to 5 percent of Americans. Contributing factors include obesity and diabetes, themselves both on the rise. Like hepatitis C, NASH can be a "silent" disease, initially showing few symptoms, but can lead to cirrhosis, or permanent scarring of the liver.
NASH is currently the third most common reason for liver transplants in the U.S., Alethia Young, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, wrote in a research report Monday. She estimates that about 6.5 million adults in the U.S. and the five major European countries have advanced NASH, and puts the peak market for medicines at $35 billion to $40 billion by 2025.