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Vertex to end sales of hepatitis C drug Incivek

(Reuters) - Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc is stopping U.S. sales and distribution of its Incivek hepatitis C treatment, whose use has been largely supplanted by the new Sovaldi drug from Gilead Sciences Inc.

On Monday, Vertex sent a letter to doctors who treat patients with liver wasting disease to inform them that it would not be available after Oct. 14, a company spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

Vertex said in May during a conference call with analysts that it would withdraw from the hepatitis C market but had not said when it would stop making the drug.

Incivek was approved in 2011 and quickly rose to annual sales of more than $1 billion. Sales began to decline at the end of 2012 as patients began to wait for promising new drugs from competitors, which hit the market at the end of 2013.

The spokesman said the move was due to dwindling patients for the drug and the new treatments that are available. In the first half of the year, Gilead sold about $6 billion of Sovaldi, which has a high cure rate without the risk of the side effects older treatments carried.

Johnson & Johnson markets the Vertex hepatitis C treatment outside of the United States.

Vertex shares were up 3.7 percent to $88.58 on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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