PHARMACY

IMS Institute: Rx drug spend experiences slower growth

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — U.S. spending on drugs grew 2.3% to $307.4 billion in 2010, according to a new report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, part of industry research firm IMS Health.

The growth significantly was lower than the 5.1% growth seen in 2009, and the volume of prescription drugs consumed overall also rose at historically low levels. The report, “The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010,” attributed the slower growth to a combination of increased use of generics, loss of patent protection for branded drugs, decreased demand, a 4.2% decrease in the number of doctors’ office visits with a result in fewer new therapy starts and less spending on new drugs, which in part resulted from problems in the economy.

Of the almost 4 billion prescriptions filled through retail channels, chain drug stores were the top choice, thanks to convenience, their acquisitions of independent drug stores and the availability of generic drugs. Overall, chain drug stores increased their market share by 0.5%.

The top five therapy classes last year were cancer drugs, which saw $22.3 billion in spending; respiratory drugs, at $19.3 billion; lipid regulators, at $18.7 billion; diabetes drugs, at $16.9 billion; and antipsychotic drugs, at $16.1 billion. Spending growth ranged from 0.9% for lipid regulators to 12.5% for diabetes drugs, though despite having the highest sales, cancer drugs grew by only 3.5%. Spending on branded drugs decreased by 0.7%, while spending on generics increase by 4.5% for branded generics and 21.7% for unbranded generics. Generics now account for 78% of all retail prescriptions dispensed.

“It became apparent in 2010 that the healthcare landscape is shifting in significant ways,” IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics research development director Michael Kleinrock said. “Physicians and patients have more therapy options than ever, and yet spending on medicines is rising at historic lows with the impact of patent expiries and reduced patient activity. The long-term effect on patient health and few doctor office visits and new therapy starts is unclear and requires closer attention.”

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PHARMACY

Forest purchases rights to azimilide

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Drug maker Forest Labs has acquired worldwide rights to a drug developed by Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals for treating arrhythmia.

Forest said Tuesday that it had purchased the rights to azimilide from Blue Ash Therapeutics and had been assigned a license agreement between Blue Ash and Warner Chilcott. Forest will assume responsibility for all future development and commercialization, including costs. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to have acquired the worldwide rights to azimilide,” Forest president and CEO Howard Solomon said. “Azimilide is a well-studied drug [that] has been reviewed in the past by the [Food and Drug Administration] as an anti-arrhythmic treatment for patients with a history of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias and who have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a group for which there are currently no approved anti-arrhythmics.”

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Sigma-Tau OKed to manufacture primary ingredient in Oncaspar

BY Alaric DeArment

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has given approval to Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals to manufacture the main ingredient of a treatment for leukemia, the drug maker said.

Sigma-Tau was approved to manufacture L-asparaginase, the primary ingredient in the drug Oncaspar (pegaspargase). Sigma-Tau began seeking approval when the previous manufacturer ceased production. The drug is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as ALL.

“To get a complex biologic medicine, such as this, exactly right takes a great deal of work for both the manufacturer and the FDA,” Sigma-Tau CEO Gregg Lapointe said. “We are pleased to announce that with this approval, there will be no interruption in either the production of the medicine or in the treatment of patients with ALL.”

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