Feature Pharmaceuticals

Pfizer steps up battle to defend control of pregabalin

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3119 (Published 08 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3119
  1. Andrew Jack, editor, #FirstFT, Financial Times, London
  1. andrew.jack{at}ft.com

Pfizer’s actions over its biggest blockbuster drug sparks confusion

Pfizer has launched a charm offensive on UK doctors, after accusations of profiteering and concerns over increased paperwork for prescribers, and has taken to the courts to defend exclusive control over the main use of its valuable pain drug pregabalin.

The US pharmaceutical giant has written to the medical press to emphasise to doctors its desire to continue investing in research and development in patients’ interests, while arguing that its top selling drug should remain partly protected from competition, despite the expiry of the original patent.

Berkeley Phillips, Pfizer’s UK medical director, and Seema Patel, its medical director for established UK pharma business, apologised to doctors for confusion and said, “Our intention was neither to cause confusion, nor add to your workload.” But they insisted on the need to defend the company’s intellectual property rights.

The letter follows concern among doctors in recent weeks after they received circulars from the NHS cautioning that they should seek to prescribe pregabalin by using its brand name (Lyrica) when they prescribe the drug to treat pain.1 Pfizer had cautioned commissioning groups that to do otherwise could be “unlawful.”

The actions highlight the …

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