PHARMACY

Slow holiday demand, mild flu season drain Walgreens’ year-end performance

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. Anemic holiday sales growth and a mile flu season drained much of the growth momentum out of Walgreen Co.’s year-end sales, the company reported today.

Total sales rose a modest 7.8 percent in December over the same month last year, to $5.51 billion. Same-store sales were up a paltry 2.6 percent—remarkably weak by Walgreens standards—with front-end comps rising just 1.7 percent for the month and comp-store pharmacy sales up 3.3 percent.

Behind the weaker pharmacy numbers: the ongoing surge in sales of lower-cost generic drugs—which despite relatively high gross margins can’t match branded drugs for top-line revenues—and little demand for flu medications. “Comparable pharmacy sales were negatively impacted by 4.4 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months,” the company reported. “Impacting pharmacy sales was a milder flu season, which hurt the number of prescriptions filled by 2.6 percentage points.”

Total prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 1.4 percent in December, Walgreens stated today. Overall, pharmacy sales accounted for 57.3 percent of total sales for the month.

Front-store performance, meanwhile, suffered from “weakness in seasonal categories, the withdrawal from the market and cautions on the use of cough and cold products for children 6 and under, and aggressive pricing on digital photo prints,” Walgreens noted. Bright spots included gift cards, consumables and private-label brands, “as consumers looked for value.”

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PHARMACY

Orion, Sun in patent fight over Stalevo

BY Drew Buono

HELSINKI, Finland Orion has extended a patent suit against Sun Pharmaceuticals, which is challenging the company on its Parkinson’s disease treatment drug Stalevo, according to published reports.

Orion is already suing Sun to prevent it from making a generic version of the drug, which is generically called carbidopa/levodopa. Sun has now amended its application to contain Paragraph IV challenges against three of Orion’s patents covering Stalevo.

The challenges mean Sun is either claiming Orion’s patents are invalid or that it would not be infringing on Orion’s patent rights by making a generic version.

Orion, which is evaluating its legal options together with Novartis, the company which exclusively markets Stalevo in the, said the application review process has only just begun and that generic competition is ‘neither certain nor imminent’.

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Forest, Cypress submit application to FDA for fibromyalgia treatment

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK and SAN DIEGO Forest Laboratories and Cypress Bioscience have recently submitted a drug application to the Food and Drug Administration for milnacipran, a drug for treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome, according to published reports.

The submission includes efficacy data from two Phase III trials involving 2,084 patients, which showed that milnacipran demonstrated improvement compared to a placebo in treating fibromyalgia, the companies said.

Currently, only Pfizer’s Lyrica is approved in the U.S. to treat fibromyalgia, which affects up to 6 million Americans.

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