Will Merck & Co. Inc Unseat Biotech's Hottest Drug?

Gilead Sciences' oral hepatitis C drug Sovaldi has taken the market by storm, but Merck's looking to fight back in the race to capture this lucrative niche.

Dan Carroll
Dan Carroll
Apr 17, 2014 at 9:30AM
Health Care

No drug has hit the market running like Gilead Sciences(NASDAQ:GILD) freshly approved oral hepatitis C drug Sovaldi. In a market that analysts estimate could be worth up to $20 billion, Sovaldi's made a huge impact in gaining regulatory approval first in the U.S. Some on Wall Street believe that Sovaldi could earn Gilead north of $8 billion in its first full year on the market alone, an astronomical sum that has blown out hype over this big biotech company's new star drug.

Yet investors have turned on Gilead recently, with much of the criticism coming over Sovaldi's hefty price tag. Enter its competitors in the oral hep C race, with big pharma's Merck (NYSE:MRK) looking to take its own bite out of this lucrative opportunity and aiming to knock Gilead and Sovaldi down a peg. Merck's combination hep C therapy of drugs MK-5172 and MK-8742 scored a 98% cure rate in a recent mid-stage trial, and the company's hoping for a victory in its currently underway phase 3 trial for the treatment as well.

Can Merck emerge as an under-the-radar contender to dominate the oral hepatitis C market and compete with Gilead for the billions of dollars at play? In the video below, Motley Fool contributor Dan Carroll takes you through what Merck's facing in its oral hep C combination therapy and whether you can believe in this stock as this hotly contested race heats up.