Politicians still going after Actavis for its Namenda hard-switch
- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been waging a war with Actavis over the Alzheimer's drug Namenda, is continuing to block the company from forcing patients to switch to a new extended-release version of the drug.
- Namenda had roughly $1.5 billion in revenues last year.
- The original action was filed in court on April 15, 2014. Actavis has appealed and the case will be heard again on April 13.
At issue is not whether a company has the right to attempt to extend a line of drugs by improving dosing or other features, such as delivery or side-effect profile. Rather, in this case, the issue is whether Actavis has the right to discontinue sales of Namenda, which is slated for patent expiry in July. The net effect of this action would be to force patients to switch to a newer, more expensive version of Namenda—the XR version.
Comments made by Brett Saunders during an investors' call over a year ago have been widely used in the proceedings to demonstrate that Actavis's forced switch actions are not patient-centric. In a call to investors in January 2014, Saunders said: "If we do the hard switch and we convert patients and caregivers to once-a-day therapy … it’s very difficult for the generics then to reverse-commute back, at least with the existing Rxs."
Antitrust advocates consider this an important case, because it is portotypical in many ways and the strategic approach is fairly transparent. While it's true that the once-daily dosing of an XR molecule may be easier than the twice-daily dosing of Namenda, as well as the stepwise titration schedule that helps patients go from 5 mg per day to 20 mg per day, the overall affect for patients with AD is not radically different, especially if the cost increase is significant.
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