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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday December 14 2014, @08:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the good-drugs dept.

Andrew Pollack reports at the NYT that a federal judge has blocked an attempt by the drug company Actavis to halt sales of an older form of its Alzheimer’s disease drug Namenda in favor of a newer version with a longer patent life after New York’s attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing the drug company of forcing patients to switch to the newer version of the widely used medicine to hinder competition from generic manufacturers. “Today’s decision prevents Actavis from pursuing its scheme to block competition and maintain its high drug prices,” says Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. “Our lawsuit against Actavis sends a clear message: Drug companies cannot illegally prioritize profits over patients.” The case involves a practice called product hopping where brand name manufacturers (“product hoppers”) make a slight alteration to their prescription drug (PDF) and engage in marketing efforts to shift consumers from the old version to the new to insulate the drug company from generic competition for several years. For its part Actavis argued that an injunction would be “unprecedented and extraordinary” and would cause the company “great financial harm, including unnecessary manufacturing and marketing costs.” Namenda has been a big seller. In the last fiscal year, the drug generated $1.5 billion in sales. The drug costs about $300 a month.

 
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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Paradise Pete on Sunday December 14 2014, @10:43AM

    by Paradise Pete (1806) on Sunday December 14 2014, @10:43AM (#125922)

    Turns out waiving the remaining patent (my thought as well) wouldn't fully solve the problem. If the patient has been prescribed a medication for which a generic equivalent is available then the pharmacy can make the substitution. By changing the formula the company makes the generic no longer equivalent. Why couldn't doctors prescribe the generic? I don't know. Perhaps that's a side effect of drug advertising; people become convinced they need a specific named drug. Before advertising was permitted doctors chose what to prescribe - now patients tell their doctors. If the pharmacy can't say it's the same as the generic they won't be willing to switch.

    I'm not defending the decision, but that's the problem they're trying to address.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 14 2014, @01:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 14 2014, @01:48PM (#125941)

    I know from firsthand experience that customers will go with the brand name drug at 50 times the price rather than the generic in most cases, even after explaining that it is the same chemical in the same quantities. It even occurs with the generic equivalents where a customer will demand the "blue" generic pill rather than the "red" pill which is exactly the same but has another dye in it. It goes as far as junkies buying drugs on the street but demanding their specific brand of drug, based on what is arbitrarily perceived as best in their circle of friends.

  • (Score: 2) by sjames on Sunday December 14 2014, @05:18PM

    by sjames (2882) on Sunday December 14 2014, @05:18PM (#125961) Journal

    Further, it's not as if another manufacturer can just start cranking out the generic the next day. They are probably already planning to start production at or near the expiration date of the patent. Moving that date up by 6 months won't move the generic availability up.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday December 14 2014, @09:24PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 14 2014, @09:24PM (#125995) Journal

      Sure they could.
      They can get their generic approved ahead of time.
      They could have a warehouse full of the drug.

      They just can't sell one single pill until the patent expires.
      They can claim that this manufacture is for testing and in preparation for their regulatory requirements, because the US has a "research"
      safe harbor clause.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_infringement#United_States [wikipedia.org]

      --
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      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday December 15 2014, @01:37AM

        by sjames (2882) on Monday December 15 2014, @01:37AM (#126048) Journal

        Yes, and what they are doing probably is all timed out to go on sale in June, not tomorrow.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday December 15 2014, @10:41PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Monday December 15 2014, @10:41PM (#126333)

          6 months at $1.5B/year?
          If you're the only "generic" supplier for 6 months, you could easily pocket 10-50% of that. You'll find that a lot of things can happen if the take is 75 to 375 millions...
          Heck, even the Indian Space Agency would get involved, that's one more Mars mission right there!

  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday December 14 2014, @09:08PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 14 2014, @09:08PM (#125990) Journal

    Changing the formula only applies to the NEW drug. It does not pertain to the OLD drug.
    Two different drugs.

    The doctor can simply prescribe the OLD drug, (or generic) and let the pharmacist dispense the generic.

    --
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