Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Drug Company is Forced to Keep a Drug on the Market

I've often wondered why some people seem to have such a negative impression of the big pharmaceutical companies that develop and market the medical drugs we all need and use. Well, once in awhile a company does something so egregious that it's hard not to side with the pharma-haters.

Take the recent actions of Actavis, the pharmaceutical company that makes a top-selling drug for the treatment of Alzheimer disease called Namenda IR. Namenda IR goes off patent this September; after that, stiff competition from generic drugmakers would have made the drug much cheaper. But Actavis has developed a new, longer-acting formulation called Namenda XR that is under a new patent. So last year the company announced that it would discontinue the old drug, well before its patent expired. Why? By discontinuing the old drug, the company would force users to switch to the newer (more expensive) drug and get them used to taking it before any generic drug could become available! By the way, the active ingredient in the two drugs is exactly the same; the only difference is that the new drug needs to be taken only once a day instead of twice a day for the old drug.

Inquiring minds saw through that one. The State Attorney General of New York sued Actavis, arguing that Actavis was trying to stifle competition from the generic drug industry (duh!), and thus was violating state and U.S. antitrust laws. And last week a Federal Appeals court in New York ruled that Actavis must continue to keep the old drug on the market, according to an article in The New York Times.

Actavis got caught this time. But this sort of shenanigan happens all too often.

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