Reports: Humira to become top-selling drug this year
NEW YORK — Move over, Lipitor: There’s a new top drug on the market, according to published reports.
Based on analysis compiled by Thomson Reuters Pharma, Reuters reported Wednesday that Abbott Labs’ arthritis drug Humira (adalimumab) would become the highest-selling drug in the world this year, replacing Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin). And, according to Reuters, Lipitor and the No. 2 drug, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s and Sanofi’s blood-thinning drug Plavix (clopidogrel) — also set to face generic competition — might not even make the top 10 list.
The loss of Lipitor’s long-held top spot comes as no surprise as the drug lost patent protection in November 2011 and currently faces competition from Ranbaxy Labs’ cheaper generic version. Other generics are likely to enter the market when Ranbaxy’s own market exclusivity period ends in May, bringing prices for the drug down even further. Lipitor had sales of $7.7 billion in 2011, while Plavix sold $6.8 billion, according to IMS Health. Humira currently is at 10th place, with sales of $3.5 billion in 2011, according to IMS.
The trend is emblematic of drug makers’ gradual shift away from a model of drug development that has relied on small-molecule medicines for such primary care conditions as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, and toward specialty drugs for such diseases as cancer and autoimmune disorders, especially biotech drugs. While those drugs target smaller patient populations, they sell at prices that allow drug companies to head off loss of patent protection for blockbuster drugs, and are more difficult to duplicate for generic companies that may seek to create biosimilar versions in the future.
Currently, by IMS’ count, Humira is the only specialty drug among the top 10, but among the top 15, all but one of the bottom six are specialty biotech medicines.
Did you know that a small study showed that Humira does cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of a fetus during the last trimester of pregnancy. Generally, Humira could be found in the infant's bloodstream up to 3 months after birth. It is recommended that babies born to mothers taking Humira be checked closely for infection for the first 6 months of life, and not receive any live-virus vaccinations during that time.
Report: Federal judge hears arguments in ESI-Medco merger case
NEW YORK — A federal judge in Pittsburgh will rule "later" on whether to block or allow a merger between pharmacy benefit managers Medco Health Solutions and Express Scripts, and is considering a request by two trade groups seeking to keep Medco’s operations and assets separate from ESI while the lawsuit is pending, according to published reports.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that attorneys for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and independent pharmacies and ESI argued for three hours before judge Cathy Bissoon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The pharmacy groups argued that the PBMs’ merger would violate antitrust laws and reduce services to retail pharmacy customers. The groups filed the suit on March 29 following the Federal Trade Commission’s approval of the merger.
ESI’s attorneys countered that stopping the $29.1 billion merger would cause significant harm to the PBM because it already had spent more than $230 million on integration and sharing of information.
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Takeda acquires URL Pharma
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Takeda Pharmaceutical will acquire privately owned drug maker URL Pharma for $800 million, the companies said Wednesday.
Takeda announced that it would acquire Philadelphia-based URL through a U.S. subsidiary for the upfront payment plus future milestone payments. Takeda said it expected the acquisition to contribute "significantly" to its sales and profits starting in fiscal year 2013.
The purchase also includes URL’s Colcrys (colchicine), a drug used to treat and prevent gout flares that had sales of more than $430 million in 2011. Takeda already markets another gout drug, Uloric (febuxostat), which is used to lower blood uric levels in adults with the disease.
"This acquisition expands Takeda’s gout treatment portfolio and leverages our expertise in primary care," Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. president Douglas Cole said. "Gout affects more than 8 million Americans, and the prevalence of gout is rising."
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