On Thursday, a federal jury ordered Gilead Sciences Inc to pay $200 million to Merck & Co in damages for infringing two Merck patents linked to a profitable hepatitis C cure. Merck had demanded $2 billion but the damage awarded to the company is quite less. The same jury in San Jose, California, supported the validity of the patents, on Tuesday, which are at the heart of the dispute related to Gilead's main drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni. As a whole, both the medicines had over $20 billion in US sales last year and a year prior to that.
Merck is trying to offer tough competition to Gilead, which dominates the market with its latest generation of hepatitis C drugs that can very well cure more than 90% patients suffering from the liver disease. However, the cost of treatment is extremely high in the United States.
In January, Merck’s hepatitis C drug Zepatier received approval. Merck has also asked for 10% royalty on the sales of Gilead, growing at a fast pace. This matter will be discussed in another non-jury trial in the front of US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, kicking off coming week.
Gilead spokeswoman Michele Rest said that as per the company, Merck wasn’t entitled to any kind of damages. She mentioned that in case the judge goes by the jury's verdict, they would appeal.
Merck said in a statement, “We are pleased that the jury recognized that patent protections are essential to the development of new medical treatments”. Merck shares dropped 50 cents to $52.5 in after-hours trading, and Gilead shares climbed slightly after the news.
The list prices of the latest drugs have been criticized by insurers, politicians and patient groups. At $1,125 a pill before discounts, for Harvoni treatment, patients will have to pay $94,000 for a 12-week regimen.