Intended for healthcare professionals


Company’s attempt to switch its patients to a new drug is foiled

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 23 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7802
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. 1Montreal

A drug company’s attempt to switch its patients to a new formulation of one of its old drugs before the old drug’s patent ran out has been foiled by a New York federal court. The company tried to “hard switch” its patients to the new formulation by ceasing distribution of the old drug.

The company, Actavis, has decided to appeal against the court’s decision to compel its recently acquired subsidiary Forest Laboratories to keep distributing the Alzheimer’s disease treatment memantine (which it markets as Namenda) in its original, twice daily immediate release format. The case, brought by the state of New York, is the first use of federal antitrust law against the industry practice known as hard switching.1

Namenda IR (immediate release) reaches the end of its patent protection in July 2015, and payment plans would normally switch existing prescriptions to cheaper generic competitors, but the manufacturer has a patent valid until 2025 for an extended release, once daily version, Namenda XR. If patients switched to the XR format before next summer, health plans would not switch them back to a twice daily generic. To …

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