UPDATE: Merck Hepatitis C exit could lift the space's two remaining drugmakers
By Emma Court
The change could lift shares of AbbVie and Gilead in the long term
Merck announced early Friday that it plans to stop developing its two hepatitis C therapies.
The decision follows a similar one by Johnson & Johnson earlier this month, with both Merck (MRK) and J&J (JNJ) saying that competitive considerations factored into their decisions.
Now "the HCV category comes down to only 2 entrants (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/merck-discontinues-development-program-for-a-hep-c-treatment-2017-09-29)," AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) and Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), said Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges. "This, in a nutshell, changes everything."
Merck's Friday decision still leaves it with hepatitis C treatment Zepatier, which was approved by the FDA in early 2016.
But the therapy "suffers from several problems and limitations, and is not competitive with either Gilead's Epclusa/Harvoni or AbbVie's Mavyret," Porges said.
Related: AbbVie's new, cheaper hepatitis C drug could launch the drug world's own Hunger Games (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/abbvies-new-cheaper-hepatitis-c-drug-could-launch-the-drug-worlds-own-hunger-games-2017-08-04)