Patent Expirations Fuel ‘War’ Between Brand-Name, Generic Drug Makers
With many top-selling brand-name prescription drugs about to lose their patent exclusivity, pharmaceutical companies are at "war" with generic drug makers, and federal and state courts have been "bombarded" with lawsuits "accusing drug companies of engaging in a host of unfair tactics to keep generic medications off the market," the Los Angeles Times reports. Over the next five years, several brand-name drugs -- including Claritin, Schering-Plough's allergy medication, and Prevacid, TAP Pharmaceuticals Products anti-ulcer treatment -- with a current market value of $37 billion, will likely lose their patents. With the stakes so high, the Times reports that the fight "figures to be a downright slugfest." For example, AstraZeneca and generic drug maker Sicor Inc. have battled over the anesthetic Diprivan. Sicor claims that as it drew closer to launching a generic version of the drug, AstraZeneca "pulled out all the stops" to keep it from doing so. First, AstraZeneca reformulated Diprivan to extend its patent, then filed a series of lawsuits to prevent Sicor from offering its generic version of Diprivan. After those attempts failed, AstraZeneca launched an "aggressive publicity campaign" to discredit the newly approved generic version. The Times reports that AstraZeneca "denies charges it played dirty." Other pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Schering-Plough, are also being accused of using "unfair tactics" to prevent generic versions of their top-selling drugs from entering the market.
But generic drug makers have some important advantages, the Times reports. First, generic drugs can reduce the cost of certain prescription drugs by as much at 70%. With health plans, doctors and patients "clamoring" for lower health care costs, less costly generic drugs have "widespread appeal." In addition, Congress is putting more pressure on brand-name pharmaceutical companies. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have introduced legislation (S 812) to prevent drug companies from delaying entry of generic versions (Ballon, Los Angeles Times, 6/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.