ddn Online

The Blog of Drug Discovery News

Good news, bad news

As is so often the case, I greet stories of mergers with a sense of “yes, a company successful enough to be bought out by (or combine with) someone larger…congrats to them!” that is mixed with the “oh crap, more people are going to be jobless now, probably” feeling.

Case in point: Valeant Pharmaceuticals in California is laying off 500 people subsequent to the fall merger deal with the former Biovail, which had been Canada’s largest publicly traded pharma company…

Read more (and try not to weep; at least it isn’t the thousands upon thousands that so many Big Pharmas have announced are getting the axe in recent months, as ddn Chief Editor Amy Swinderman talked about here and here.)


January 14, 2011 Posted by | Corporate, M&A activity | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look out! The brand-name ground crumbles beneath you!

OK, how’s that for a dramatic headline? Perhaps somewhat more dramatic than the actual news from Datamonitor that inspired it, but I’m not above a little marketing.

Anyway, here’s the scoop from the folks at Datamonitor about the effect of brand erosion in the United States and elsewhere when products stumble (or are pushed) over the edge of the patent cliff, in their own words:

U.S. most susceptible to brand erosion post patent expiry

Small molecule brands in the US experience the greatest degree of brand erosion following patent expiry and exposure to direct generic competition, according to a new report from independent market analyst, Datamonitor.

Following the United States, brand erosion is next most severe in the United Kingdom, Germany and France, with brand erosion the lowest in Australia, Italy, Russia, Spain and Japan.

Brands tended not to experience generic erosion in China following patent expiry since they often face generic competition from the outset, and instead continue to grow both in terms of volume and value.

Maura Musciacco, healthcare analyst at Datamonitor comments: “Brands in the U.S., regarded as the most mature of all generics markets, experienced the greatest degree of brand erosion following patent expiry and exposure to direct generic competition. On average, sales and volume decline by 72% and 70%, respectively, after 6 months of generic competition.

“The key driver for the uptake of generics drugs is the cost-savings they bring, a quality that is undoubtedly even more in demand as the U.S. contemplates adoption of universal healthcare.”

Brand erosion was greater in terms of speed and severity in the hospital setting, most likely reflecting the greater brand loyalty among patients in the retail setting. While in terms of erosion by therapy areas, sales and volume erosion was the greatest among infectious disease, oncology, and cardiovascular small molecule brands.

“Pharma is facing slowing sales growth in the developed pharmaceutical markets, driven by increasing generic competition leading to sales erosion of branded small molecule drugs post patent expiry. However, the speed and severity of brand erosion is by no means equal across countries, prescribing setting, therapy area and formulation type; factors which are of key importance when managing and forecasting branded drug sales,” concludes Maura.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | Corporate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The paradox of pain

The global market for pain-relieving drugs has either been approaching or surpassing the $50 billion as we’ve moved from around 2007 to the present day. It’s clearly a huge market, and especially attractive given the numbers of people who suffer from neuralgia, fibromyalgia and lower back pain.

I wrote recently about Pfizer extended its offer to acquire King Pharmaceuticals, largely out of a desire to get access to the latter company’s abuse-resistant pain medications.

And there we go with the crux of things: Abuse potential.

Bad enough that the pharma and biotech companies have to deal with ADME-Tox issues that can kill their drugs before reaching market (but no before eating up hundreds of millions in R&D costs), but now one of the more attractive markets is one in which some of the best pain-relieving drugs are potentially addictive. The question is: How many of the most promising experimental drugs in the pipeline now will be able to deal with the abuse and addiction issue while also answering patients’ needs for relief from their suffering.

This question weighs on my mind as I read a recent article from the Harvard Mental Health Letter:

Painkillers fuel growth in drug addiction, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

BOSTON—Prescription painkillers kill about twice as many people as cocaine and five times as many as heroin. Nearly two million Americans are dependent on or abusing narcotic (opioid) pain relievers—nearly twice as many as are addicted to cocaine. Because opioid painkillers target the same brain receptors as heroin, causing euphoria, they carry the risk of addiction.

On television shows, drug addicts are often depicted as criminal characters making deals on dark street corners. In fact, people abusing opioid painkillers are most likely to obtain them from friends or family members rather than from any other source, reports the January 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, explains that treatment for a painkiller addiction is most successful when it consists of two phases: detoxification to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms after opioid use stops, followed by a longer (and sometimes indefinite) maintenance phase. Although counseling is an important part of treatment, most people addicted to painkillers require treatment a medication such as methadone or buprenorphine during both detoxification and maintenance therapy. Although most people addicted to opioids make multiple attempts to kick the habit, it can be done.

This is a tricky situation, and as with so many things in my coverage of the pharmaceutical business realm, I find myself of multiple minds on the issue.

  • Are pharmas too eager to tap into this market, even though many of the best pain relievers lead to addiction and abuse in far too many people?
  • Are people themselves simply too eager to want a “magic pill” for everything rather than, as we might have been told once upon a time, “working through the pain”?
  • Am I overthinking this issue?

I’m not a person who wants to see suffering, so it is troubling that on the one hand, people might have to deal with pain while on the other hand, they might trade in agony for addicition.

It’s quite the quandary, as well as the paradox of pain: In helping people, pharmas may be hurting them as well.

On the bright side, though, pharmas like Pfizer are increasingly attracted to products that will reduced potential for abuse while still providing relief. Certainly, that is a potential profitable combination for them, and I wish them well.

But I continue to wonder how soon we’ll get to that point, and how many people will face this paradox of pain (and and for how many years) until we get there.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | Academia & Non-Profit, Corporate | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eye of the beholder

There are good drugs, there are bad drugs and there are questionable drugs.

But except in cases where a drug is clearly harming people (like, say, making them drop dead of heart attacks in droves), the value of a drug is a matter of perspective. Some argue that we overmedicate people, particularly in the Western nations, and others say we need to have more pills for everything. One person’s passion for developing a drug for an orphan disease is another person’s idea of a waste of money.

In any case, on this fall Friday, let the following image remind you that sometimes, it’s all a matter of perspective:

Have a good weekend, everyone.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment