Gilead's educational campaign boosted HCV diagnosis rates for baby boomers

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Executives at Gilead Sciences told investors Wednesday that an unbranded campaign encouraging baby boomers to get tested for hepatitis C helped boost screening and diagnosis numbers, which in turn upped sales of its HCV therapies.

The drugmaker markets several blockbuster HCV therapies, including Sovaldi and Harvoni. It most recently received FDA approval for Vosevi, aimed at patients who have failed to respond to other HCV treatments.

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About nine million people underwent testing for hepatitis C in 2016, up 15% compared to 2015's testing rates, said Kevin Young, chief operating officer at Gilead Sciences, during an earnings call. This led to about 190,000 new diagnoses in 2016, a 32% increase compared to 2015.

Gilead's unbranded campaign targeting baby boomers launched in October.

“We always feel that part of our role in the areas... that we operate is to provide education,” Young said. “It is important to continue to highlight that baby boomers potentially who have been in a situation of risk, that they might go and ask for a test and be screened and find out their status.”

Gilead reported that its HCV franchise generated sales of $1.9 billion in the second quarter of 2017, down 17% from the same quarter in 2016. But sales increased over  the first quarter of the year, driven partly by patient starts (the initiation of an HCV therapy regimen), according to Mizuho Securities analyst Salim Syed.

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Young said during the call that patient starts in the first half of the year were higher than expected, and the company anticipates between 185,000 and 200,000 patient starts for 2017.

Gilead has also launched a disease-awareness campaign about hepatitis C in Germany, Europe's largest pharmaceuticals market. Its partner for the large, multichannel effort is the German Liver Foundation.

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