PHARMACY

Ten-year Medicare costs $117 billion lower than original estimates

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON According to new reports, the cost of the Medicare prescription drug plan will be $117 billion lower over the next 10 years than what was estimated last summer due to the slowing of drug costs trends, lower estimates of plan spending and higher rebates from drug manufacturers. The new cost is now expected to be $243.7 billion, or 38.5 percent lower, than the 10-year period projection of 2004 to 2013 used originally by the Medicare Modernization Act.

Moreover, following the third open enrollment season for the prescription drug program, there are 1.5 million more enrollees in Part D, bringing the total number of beneficiaries enrolled in Part D to 25.4 million. The total number of Medicare beneficiaries with drug coverage is now about 39.5 million.

Overall, about 90 percent of the nation’s 44 million Medicare beneficiaries have drug coverage from Medicare or another source. Approximately 25.4 million are enrolled in Part D; 6.6 million retirees are enrolled in employer or union-sponsored retiree drug coverage that receives the Retiree Drug Subsidy; and 7.5 million are receiving drug coverage from other alternative creditable sources such as TRICARE; the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs or from their current employers.

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PHARMACY

Despite solid fourth quarter, Wyeth cautious about 2008

BY Drew Buono

MADISON, N.J. Wyeth released its 2007 fourth-quarter report and it showed that while the company profited in the fourth quarter, the company expects 2008 to be an off year, according to published reports.

Wyeth said net income for the three months that ended Dec. 31 rose to $1.02 billion from $855.4 million. Wyeth’s fourth-quarter sales rose 10 percent to $5.76 billion from $5.22 billion a year earlier. Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million.

Wyeth, though, now is facing trouble for 2008, and it comes in the form of generic competition. Generic manufacturers recently began selling copycat versions of Wyeth’s drug Protonix, for heartburn, which is expected to erode sales of Wyeth’s product.

Wyeth said it planned on seeking lost profits and other damages from the generics companies in a patent-infringement trial expected later this year. Protonix had $1.9 billion in sales in 2007. Wyeth also faces potential new generic competition for two other major drugs, the antidepressant Effexor and antibiotic Zosyn.

Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million, but those sales might take a hit if Sun Pharmaceuticals launches a tablet version of the extended release version of Effexor in the summer.

Protonix sales rose 10 percent to $461 million. But Wyeth has lost U.S. market exclusivity for the drug after generic drugmakers Teva Pharmaceuticals and Caraco Pharmaceutical Labs—owned by Sun—launched copycat versions, despite the existence of a patent set to expire in 2010. Wyeth this week began selling its own generic Protonix in partnership with Prasco Laboratories.

Wyeth said it now expects 2008 earnings of $3.35 to $3.49 per share, excluding certain items, representing a decrease of 1 to 5 percent from 2007 levels. Analysts had expected 2008 earnings of $3.54 per share. The company also expects to cut its 50,000-employee workforce by 4-to-6 percent during the middle of this year,

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Teva launches generic Protonix

BY Drew Buono

NORTH WALES, Pa. Teva has launched its newest drug, a generic version of the Wyeth acid reflux drug Protonix. The drug is named Pantoprazole Sodium Delayed-Release.

The drug will be available in both strengths of the brand, 20 and 40 mgs in bottles of 90.

“Our customers count on Teva for a continuous supply of new generic products,” stated John Denman, vice president of. Sales and Marketing. “With the launch of pantoprazole sodium delayed-release tablets we add another quality product to our broad line of affordable generic pharmaceuticals.

This launch comes just a day after Wyeth released their own generic version of the drug, in hopes of keeping some of the market share they would have lost due to generic competition. Near the end of this year, Teva and Sun Pharma had received approval to launch a generic version of Protonix.

The drug had sales of $2.5 billion in 2007, according to Wyeth.

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