Sunrise, Sunset

On June 12, I blogged about a new Merck blockbuster diabetes drug called Januvia, which is awaiting FDA approval. It turns out that next Friday June 23 Merck will lose its patent protection on a current blockbuster heart drug, the statin Zocor ($4.4 billion in 2005 sales — estimated zero dollars in 2007).

According to Forbes Magazine, the Israel based generic drug powerhouse Teva Pharmaceutical Industries expects to receive FDA approval of its generic version of Zorcor, known as simvastatin , later this month. Although Pfizer’s patent on the best selling statin Lipitor ($13 billion in sales) does not expire until 2011, prescription benefit managers are expected to encourage switchovers from patent medications like Lipitor and Crestor to the generic version of Zocor, particularly in low risk patients. Indeed, a research company Decision Resources recently found that “primary care physicians and cardiologists expect to substantially decrease their prescribing of Lipitor when generic simvastatin is available in June 2006.

What’s more, Pfizer’s patent on the best selling anti-depressant drug Zoloft ($3.3 billion in 2005 sales) expires on June 30. A US subsidiary of Teva, Ivax, received FDA approval of a generic version of another best-selling anti-depressant Lexapro ($1.2 billion in 2005 sales) on May 23. However, Teva cannot market that generic until Forest Lab’s patent on Lexapro expires in 2009 unless it wins its legal challenge to that patent.

Express Scripts, one of the major PBMs, issued a report earlier this month estimating that there are $20 billion in untapped generic drug savings.