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Friday, January 10, 2014

Manufacturer Screwballs

In an effort to make more money, drug manufacturers are ever on the lookout to hold on to their cash cow. Prozac was a brand-only product for far too long, receiving multiple patent extensions. Then there are the companies that come out with an Extended-Release product about 6-12 months before the original goes generic.
The new trend is genius if you're a manufacturer, but a pain in the ass for pharmacists, prescribers, and patients when no one bothers to explain to us what's happening.

Imagine a new product. It's different than the others in its class. It is a good product, but expensive. The manufacturer supplies pharmacists and prescribers with copay cards that make this product a little more reasonable. This goes on for a few years. Suddenly, without warning, this brand product is nowhere to be found. We can't get it for a couple months. What happened?

They stopped making brand-name Loestrin FE 24 birth control. Period. Flat out stopped making it last year. Discontinued it altogether. Why? One day we receive promos and a shipment of Minastrin FE 24. Same packaging, same colors, same boxes, same tablets...except it's chewable. That's right. Their original patent was due to expire in 2014 on the Loestrin FE 24 so they quit making it. They spent the rest of 2013 telling prescribers and pharmacists to switch everyone to the Minastrin FE 24.
Now with the original generic soon to be out, there is no longer a market for the original brand. They cannot be interchanged without a call to the doctor.
We will have to deal with the questions and complaints:
"Why can't you just switch me back? It's what I was taking originally until you guys made me switch."
"Aren't they the same thing?"
"Can't you call my doctor?"

Believe me, many gynecologists had no idea what was happening until I told them. They only heard the pitch from the drug rep who conveniently left out the manufacturer's grand scheme. It's one thing to take a regular release product (Wellbutrin) that you take 3 times a day and add a Sustained-Release product you take twice a day to your line, then sell the naming rights to a company that will produce an "XL" version you only take once a day. It is quite another to pretend you revolutionized the birth control world by making your tablets chewable. Thank you Warner Chilcott. Can't wait for your hit followup.

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