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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More about generic drug shortages

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries agreed in May of this year to purchase Cephalon for $6.8 billion. Cephalon is best known for its blockbuster drug Provigil - FDA approved for treatment of narcolepsy but commonly used for treatment of Alzheimer's, and for (in theory) boosting the brain power of university professors and students.

Now why would Teva, a manufacturer of generic drugs, want to purchase Cephalon, a manufacturer of brand name pharmaceuticals?

Provigil had about $1.1 billion in annual sales, which are at risk once patent protection goes away next year. However, Cephalon spent about $4 million this year advertising Nuvigil, the next generation of Provigil, promoted for shift workers to alleviate their symptoms of fatigue at 4 o'clock in the morning. It is, of course patent protected.

So what Teva, a manufacturer of generic drugs, stand to gain from the purchase of this particular pharmaceutical company? $1.1 billion dollars per year in sales is nothing to sneeze at.

Then ask yourself why Teva stopped making doxorubicin, an inexpensive generic cancer drug which has been unavailable since early this year. Or why the company stopped making leucovorin, a form of folic acid essential for cancer chemotherapy with 5-FU. Leucovorin is also an inexpensive generic. There is a much more expensive brand name leucovorin called Fusilev which has been in plentiful supply all year.

It is curious that we have a plentiful supply of brand name patent protected drugs, and yet many generic inexpensive drugs are on back-order, some of them on indefinite back-order.

1 comment:

  1. In the newsfeed this morning from ASCO (American Society for Clinical Oncology)I read a quote from an FDA official which is not only confirmatory, but also chilling: the quote came from PBS Newshour: downloaded August 30, 2011.

    CAP. VALERIE JENSEN, Food and Drug Administration: "When we ask firms why they discontinue these drugs, the usual reason that we receive back is that these are not profitable drugs. So, as newer drugs come off patent, often, those are picked up by firms. And they want to make those drugs because they are more profitable. And these older sterile injectables can get discontinued for that reason."

    Scary... for those that have cancer or other chronic illness and actually need the medications to survive.