Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vertex Is "Big Winner" -- Over Legacy S-P: Herper In Forbes

This one comes to us courtesy of an anonymous commenter, who saw it -- and posted it -- whilst I was attending to other matters. Clearly Ex-CEO Hassan's rhetoric was egregiously overblown (on boceprevir), given that he too knew of the Phase IIb (and later, Phase III) top-line trial results, between these two Hep C candidates.
In any event, here's Matt Herper (writing for Forbes) on it -- do go read it all:

. . . .Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been going up against drug giant Merck in a marketing battle to treat hepatitis C — and so far it’s winning in a big way.

Despite a partnership with Roche, one of the traditional leaders in the hepatitis C market, Vertex’s Incivek is being prescribed four times as often as Merck’s Victrelis, analysts say. This morning, Geoffrey Porges of Sanford C. Bernstein, a Vertex bull, wrote in a note to investors that Incivek is doing even better than they think.

Porges says that if prescriptions of Incivek were to stop growing entirely, the drug would still generate 2011 sales of $725 million, still slightly above the $700 million average of forecasts by Wall Street analysts. If growth rapidly slows, Incivek will still generate $900 million. If sales keep growing at their current rate, he says that Incivek sales could hit $1.2 billion — impressive given that the medicine was only approved this year. . . .

Indeed -- it was only approved in May of this yead. And so, this was yet another pig in a poke, sold to Merck by Ex-CEO Hassan -- just as we've consistently said, since early 2009. Finally, the proof is out.


Anonymous said...

Any data on the PegIntron (Merck) versus Pegasys (Roche) numbers during this launch period?

Condor said...

Yes -- and actually, sales of Pegintron are off (falling) by about $31 million in this second quarter of 2011 ($154 million), compared to Q2 2010 ($185 million): see the middle of page 34 of Merck's SEC-filed Form 10-Q, for that. Down 20 percent.

Roche is not a US public company -- it trades in Basel, primarily. Since after it acquired Genentech in 2009, Roche has not submitted US SEC periodic financial reports.

I am too tired to go find ALL the data, tonight, but you might try the Basel (Swiss) Exchange -- Roche likely breaks out major products, of which its Pegasys is almost certainly one.

Wow. I got lucky -- on my first Google search, here:

This 2.8 Mb PDF file (at page 18, horizontal bar graph), of July 2011, shows that for the half year, Pegasys sales are down 11 percent (2011 vs. 2010).

On a percentage basis, then -- Merck's Pegintron sales are falling almost twice as fast as Roche's -- at almost 20 percent, year over year.


Condor said...


The purest "apples to apples" recent numbers for Merck's PegIntron (also from page 34 of the Merck SEC Form 10-Q), compared to Roche's Pegasys would be:

$319 million in 2011 half-year, vs. $371 million in 2010 first half.

So the trend-line holds, but looks more like a 16 percent down-bubble at Merck (vs. 11 percent at Roche).

So -- who else makes a pegylated interferon for Hep C? Or is this the effect of the shorter treatment regimens -- with Incivek (and to a lesser extent, Victrelis)?

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

PegIntron and Pegasys are about it. Strange that the numbers would seem to drop year on year. If more patients are getting therapy, the standard of care would include one of these two products. Perhaps the true nature of this market won't be known until the Q3 numbers are released in October.

condor said...

It is interesting, right?

We will have to wait for Q3 2011 figures, but it is possible that the much shorter course of treatment -- in the new standard of care combo therapy (telaprevir -- or less often, boceprevir coupled to a pegylated interferon dosing). . . explains it all.

Old school was 48 weeks of PegIntron; new school is as little as 12 or 24 weeks.

That could explain just about all of the decline, 2011 v. 2010.