By the way, there’s more than one reason for the purported $80 billion in drug company largesse to the decrepit classes, which I discussed yesterday. This most recent ploy is yet another of Big Pharma’s machinations to extend the life of drug patents, and keep people taking their exhorbitantly priced brand-name drugs. As Reuters points out today, when seniors reach the Medicare Part D donut hole, the majority of them percent either stop taking some of their drugs altogether, or switch to cheaper generics. To keep that from happening, the drug companies are more than willing to offer oldsters their “generous” discounts on brand-name drugs.
Right now, a company winning regulatory approval of a new drug from the FDA can get monopoly protection under the patent law for 20 years. (Since the patent clock starts ticking before clinical trials begin, the actual life of the patent can be anywhere from 7 to 12 years). Once that time is up, the firm can then file for an extension which can run another 30 months. During that time,the big pharmaceutical company can sue the companies that want to put a generic equivalent on the market, and hence keep the patent in place. And when that time is up, the company can slightly alter the chemical composition of the drug whose patent is running out and introduce an entirely new drug (like Nexium replacing Prilosec). If the FDA goes along with that, the clock starts ticking all over again.
Carolyn Caffrey, an Unsilent reader, makes an important point in her comment on yesterday’s post, which helps explain why the drugmakers are grasping at every possible ploy to keep brand-name drugs sales going.
A LOT of their “cash cow” drugs are up for patent expiration in the next few years. They stand to lose HUGE money. And quite a number of those are drugs used widely by Medicare patients…like Aricept for Alzheimers. So, they’re trying to cut their losses by discounting ONLY brand name prescriptions as a way of squeezing extra life and dollars from those through the Medicare program. I just completed a little summary of 18 of the top “patent cliff” drugs whose patents expire in the next 3 years. But here is a partial list of top sellers that will be open to generics:
in 2010: Lipitor (the #1 drug in retail sales with annual sales in 2008 of $5.9 BILLION); Advair, Levaquin, Cozaar, and Aricept.
In 2011: Seroquel, Zyprexa, Actos, Xalatan, Aprovel, and Plavix (#3 at $3.8 billion);
In 2012: Lexapro, Avandia, Singulair, Zometa, Diovan, Crestor, and Symbicort.
Yeah, some gift to the elderly huh. Don’t you know the advertising is going to be fierce too, and targeted, to keep seniors asking for those, and doctors prescribing them.
I’d be tired…if I wasn’t so DAMN MAD!!