'Hard switch' gets a hard no: Actavis must keep older Namenda on the market
- Actavis has been trying to convince doctors and patients that Namenda XR, a longer-lasting version of its blockbuster Alzheimer's medication, is more convenient than the IR version and that therefore they should switch away from Namenda IR.
- But based on a recent decision in a federal appeals court, Namenda IR cannot be removed from pharmacies until August, after a generic version becomes available.
- This has been a closely watched case, because it signals how the courts may treat "product hopping" and controversial "hard switch" strategies in the future.
In a case that has been brewing since September 2014, Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, has succeeded in his antitrust suit against Actavis. Actavis was sued for for attempting to force patients to switch to its new Alzheimer's medication, Namenda (memantine) XR, and limiting availability of the Namenda IR, which is slated to go off patent in July.
Many consumer actavists and some physicians were riled by Actavis's efforts to promote once-aday Namenda XR over twice-a-day Namenda IR, especially considering the cost differentials. Although Namenda XR appears to be more convenient, there are issues related to insurance coverage and other factors that may make it less convenient for an individual patient.
The patent for Namenda XR does not expire until 2025, while Namenda IR's patent will expire this summer. On the upside, analysts predict that generic versions of Namenda IR will be available by July, or August, at the latest.