Monday, July 25, 2011

The world's best-selling drugs


Pfizer's basic patent on its top-selling drug Lipitor was upheld in federal court Wednesday, but a second, longer-running patent was ruled invalid, possibly eliminating billions of dollars in potential sales. Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, said the federal Court of Appeals ruled that the basic patent on Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug, is valid. This means that Pfizer has patent protection on the cholesterol-cutting drug until March of 2010. But the court also ruled that Pfizer's second patent on Lipitor, which would have protected the drug until June of 2011, is invalid. This chops 15 months off the Pfizer patent, which is critical, considering that Lipitor sales totaled $12.2 billion in 2005. If Pfizer can't find a way to reverse the decision, the New York-based company could miss out on billions of dollars in potential sales. Pfizer (Charts) stock fell about 1.5 percent in heavy New York Stock Exchange trading after the ruling. - NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) The cost of prescription medicines used by millions of people every day is about to plummet. The next 14 months will bring generic versions of seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs, including the top two: cholesterol fighter Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix. The magnitude of this wave of expiring drugs patents is unprecedented. Between now and 2016, blockbusters with about $255 billion in global annual sales are set to go off patent, notes EvaluatePharma Ltd., a London research firm. Generic competition will decimate sales of the brand-name drugs and slash the cost to patients and companies that provide health benefits. Top drugs getting generic competition by September 2012 are taken by millions every day: Lipitor alone is taken by about 4.3 million Americans and Plavix by 1.4 million. Generic versions of big-selling drugs for blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, depression, high triglycerides, HIV and bipolar disorder also are coming by then. The flood of generics will continue for the next decade or so, as about 120 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc. Daly Powers, 25, an uninsured student who works two part-time jobs at low wages, says he often can't afford the $220 a month for his depression and attention deficit disorder pills. He couldn't buy either drug in June and says he's struggling with his Spanish class and his emotions. He looks forward to his antidepressant, Lexapro, going generic early next year. "It'd make all the difference in the world," says Powers, of Bryan, Texas.- LINDA A. JOHNSON