LILLY: To Pay $90M For Patent On ‘Purified’ Prozac
Eli Lilly & Co. may have found an answer to the looming patent expiration of Prozac, its blockbuster antidepressant drug, the Wall Street Journal reports. A Massachusetts- based biotech company, Sepracor Inc., holds a patent on a "purified" version of Prozac that would enjoy patent protection until 2015. In return for help in developing the purified version, Lilly agreed yesterday to shoulder expenses for clinical trials and pay Sepracor $20 million up front and another $70 million as the drug moves toward the market, plus royalties on worldwide sales of the drug. Though both companies could have raced alone to develop the drug, the Journal reports that Sepracor's experience in isolating purer forms of drugs coupled with Lilly's expertise in brain chemistry, marketing and proprietary data could speed FDA approval and result in the submission of a marketing application as soon as 2001 (Johannes/Burton, 12/7).
Patent On Purity
The New York Times reports that Marlborough, MA-based Sepracor, founded in 1984, "developed a technology to exploit [a] century-old discovery" (Fisher, 12/8). Louis Pasteur found that most man-made chemicals consist of two "mirror image" molecules, or isomers, one of which generally "contributes most of the useful activity, while the other causes most of the side effects." Sepracor's technique isolates the active isomer, in theory eliminating side effects associated with the other isomer. The company then patented the purer forms of "many leading drugs before their manufacturers devised ways to copy its technology." Researchers hope that the purified version of Prozac, R-fluoxetine, may reduce side effects such as "jittery nerves" while improving treatment for obesity and premenstrual syndrome (New York Times, 12/8).
Downer For Generics
The AP/Bergen Record reports that the arrangement "might allow Lilly to retain its lucrative franchise on Prozac even if generic versions hit the market when the drug's main patent expires in 2003." Analysts note that Lilly could "move doctors from prescribing the old Prozac to the new Prozac, and keep its price stable" (12/8). And generics aren't the only competitors on the horizon for Prozac's $3 billion in annual sales: in past months, Pfizer Inc.'s Zoloft has seen an 11% jump in prescriptions and SmithKline Beecham PLC's Paxil a 28% increase (Wall Street Journal, 12/7).