Ends of Patents Means More Generic Drugs


Sick of shelling out big bucks for your Lipitor and other brand-name drugs? Well, it doesn’t appear that you’ll need to do it for a whole lot longer. But you will have to memorize the actual medical name of your medicine rather than such catchy brand names as Zyprexa, Plavix, and Singulair.

They’re just a few of the brand-name drugs that will go on the market in a cheaper, generic form in the next two years.

Why? Because the patents on these and other brands will run out and allow for other companies to offer those generics at lower prices since the patent royalties and marketing costs will disappear, creating a boon for consumers and a headache for Big Pharma.[more]

“Over the next two years, the patents of many top-selling brand name drugs will be expiring, clearing the path for lower-cost generics to take their place,” the Daily Record of New Jersey reports.

Lipitor, which lowers cholesterol levels and earned Pfizer $5.3 billion in 2010 just in the U.S., according to the Record, is one of them. Its patent ends in November and the paper notes that another manufacturer, Ranbaxy Laboratories, will immediately begin cranking out generics as soon as the month is up.

The publicly traded and India-based Ranbaxy will waste no time getting its product out the door since the paper reports that it only has a six-month window of exclusive right to produce Atorvastatin (aka Lipitor) before other generic-drug makers can crowd into the market.

“Consumers will see major savings from the generics in the form of lower co-pays, and those paying the larger tab of health insurance coverage will see lower prescription cost assumptions built into future premium rates,” said Joel Owerbach, VP and chief pharmacy officer for Excellus BlueCrossBlueShield, according to MPNow.com.  “On average, the cost of a generic drug could be 50%, 75%, and even 90% less than the brand-name version.”

The Record notes that a few other patents will run out in the next year or so on a few brand-name drugs. So the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs should be a busy place.  A medicine to combat ADD and ADHD, Concerta, is open for generic production at the end of this month while the antibiotic Levaquin’s patent ends in June.

This fall, generic drug makes can begin producing Zyprexa, the antipsychotic drug that helps treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And next year, such drugs as the blood thinner Plavix, asthma and allergy drug Singulair, and Seroquel, which helps people deal with depression and other mental illnesses, among others will finish out their patents and be available for generic production.

Don’t sit back and hold your breath on all of these drugs coming quickly and cheaply, though. The newspaper notes that it is “important to note that the expiration of some of these drug patents doesn’t guarantee that less-expensive generic drugs immediately will become available. Pharmaceutical companies have methods they can employ to extend the patent and stave off generic competition.”