Federal judge: Actavis must keep selling older version of Alzheimer's drug
- In September, the Attorney General of NY filed an antitrust suit against Actavis, alleging that the company has been forcing patients to switch to the newer XR version of the Alzheimer's drug Namenda (memantine), with the goal of weakening generic competition.
- Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Attorney General's suit, saying that Actavis cannot halt sales of its older drug. However, Actavis plans to appeal.
- Starting in July 2015, Namenda will lose patent protection in various markets, opening it up to pressures from generic competitors.
The practice of stopping production of one drug to force patients to switch to another drug is called "hopping," and this is far from the first time the industry has used the tactic. Although Actavis contends that it has the right to not produce its old-line drug and to encourage patients to switch to Namenda XR, critics point out that doing so would make it more difficult for patients to switch back to the generic version (which would be a twice-daily pill) once it becomes available, since that would necessitate shifting the medication regimen for a group of people who are already significantly challenged with respect to polypharmacy and adherence.
What remains to be seen is whether or not the NY Attorney General's suit, and the judge's subsequent decision, will send a message to other companies in the industry attempting to do the same thing. Actavis spokespeople said the company was “disappointed by today’s unprecedented ruling,” but “prepared to manage our business in a way that provides the least disruption in our ability to support the marketplace and minimize any financial impact on our company.”
Namenda sales crosses $1.5 billion last year.