The price war over new hepatitis C drugs just heated up.
The nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts, said its largest plan will cover only AbbVie's newly approved hepatitis C regimen for patients with the most common form of the virus. Starting Jan. 1, it will exclude drugs from Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson for that indication.
AbbVie's Viekira Pak was approved Friday, and the company said it will have a price of $83,319. In an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Express Scripts Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller declined to disclose the terms of the deal but said Abbvie's discount was big enough to allow Express Scripts to recommend treating all patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C.
"We think when we find partners like this. We can really move drug prices and get more patients treated and more patients cured," he said.
Asked whether Express Scripts would form similar deals in other therapeutic areas including diabetes and cancer where there are high drug costs and multiple drugs on the market, Miller said he saw opportunities in those categories. He added that companies must do something because drug prices have become unsustainable.
Gilead's Sovaldi sparked a fierce debate over the cost of drugs after it was approved in December 2013 and its price set at $84,000 for 12 weeks of treatment, or about $1,000 a day. The drug, along with Johnson & Johnson's Olysio and Gilead's combination medicine, Harvoni, represent a significant improvement over previous therapies, which didn't cure all patients, were given by injection and came with side effects that could make them difficult to take.