PHARMACY

Eclipsing off-patent Lipitor, Humira tops Rx sales list

BY Jim Frederick

Just how much of an impact the loss of patent protection can have on a blockbuster drug became clear earlier this year.


In April, Thomson Reuters Pharma reported that Abbott Labs’ Humira (adalimumab), an advanced specialty medicine to treat arthritis, would replace Pfizer’s perennial powerhouse, the cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) as the world’s top-selling drug in 2012. What’s more, Reuters noted in its analysis, Lipitor and the drug that briefly replaced it as the world’s biggest seller, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s and Sanofi’s blood-thinning drug Plavix (clopidogrel), might not even make the top 10 list.


It’s stark confirmation of the role price can play in the pharmaceutical market — and of the marketing power generic competitors can have when given access to a massive-selling drug that has lost its market exclusivity. Bristol-Myers reported that sales of Plavix plunged 60% in its fiscal second quarter 2012, following loss of patent protection, to $741 million.


But Humira’s rapid rise also reflects another powerful trend in pharmaceutical research and development: the growth of specialty drugs and the accelerating shift by drug makers away from traditional modes of small-molecule drug development to treat whole classes of illness, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Increasingly, manufacturers are focusing their research and development on specialty and biotech research into more specialized medicines aimed at much smaller segments of the patient population, and banking on the higher premiums charged for those targeted medicines to offset the reduction in the number of blockbuster drugs taken by millions of patients.

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PHARMACY

Health reform stands as justices, voters ratify Obamacare

BY Jim Frederick

The Obama administration’s ambitious overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system weathered some significant challenges in 2012 and came through relatively unscathed.


The first major test came in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while still ruling that the law’s provision requiring individuals to obtain health insurance was unconstitutional.


What saved the ACA was the court’s decision that the government’s mandate to purchase health insurance qualified as a tax. 


The high court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate “means that some 40 million Americans identified as uninsured will be required to purchase some level of insurance in 2014,” DSN senior editor Michael Johnsen reported June 28. “That will drive a good number of patients to medical homes and in theory, significantly increase the demand for maintenance prescriptions and other preventive or chronic healthcare services.”


The ACA leaped a second big hurdle on Election Day, Nov. 6, when voters returned President Barack Obama to office for a second term. The president’s re-election turned aside a serious challenge to the law, which Republican contender Mitt Romney had vowed to oppose, and kept health reform on track for full implementation by 2014.

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Retail clinics to grow as hospitals embrace community care

BY Jim Frederick

With health reform and health cost imperatives driving the need to find alternative, community-based ways to deliver more cost-effective follow-up care, the retail clinic model could be poised for a new round of rapid growth.


Pharmacy-based walk-in care centers offer some compelling advantages to a health system in dire need of alternatives. Amid the increasingly expensive cost of care provided by hospitals and physician groups and the growing shortage of primary care physicians, retail clinics offer patients and health plan payers accessibility, convenience and a far cheaper brand of care for routine illnesses, health screenings and first aid. 


“The demand for health care is steadily growing as the population ages and increases, creating some strain on often overworked hospitals and physician practices,” noted Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in a report on retail clinics. Those clinics, BI noted, provide “a way of addressing this issue.”



“The number of ‘convenient care’ clinics and ‘urgent clinic’ centers is growing strongly,” noted a report issued in September by Marketdata Enterprises. “It’s likely to stay that way through 2016.” Marketdata projects the size of the retail clinic market to reach 2,700 clinics with combined revenues of $1.38 billion.

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