The patents for a slate of brand-name prescription medications are going to expire this year, meaning some medicines are about to become a lot cheaper. Some of the best selling medications on the market are included, so Big Pharma’s loss will be the public’s gain.
Exclusivity fleeting for drug makers
Copyright protections are set to expire for a growing list of prescription medications in the United States, and Big Pharma, as the pharmaceutical companies are often collectively referred to, will lose revenue in coming years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Copyrights on prescription drugs last 20 years, according to Wikipedia, and the copyright is usually secured before clinical trials begin. Thus, once a drug gets approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is often less than 10 years before the company that developed and tested the drug no longer has exclusive rights to it. At that point, generic drug makers can copy or approximate the drug and sell it as a generic equivalent if it’s as effective as the drug being copied.
Some medications will get cheap
In the next two years, six of the 20 best-selling drugs in the world will no longer be patented. One such drug is Lipitor, which will no longer be protected as of November of this year, according to MedCoHealth. Lipitor, a prescription for high cholesterol, is the best-selling pharmaceutical drug in the world. It accounted for $11 billion in sales last year for Pfizer, according to the Financial Times. Israeli generic drug maker Teva is already at work on a generic form of the drug. Some other huge sellers that will go generic by the end of the year include anti-psychotic Zyprexa, which made $1.97 billion in 2009. Drugs also set to go “off-label” by 2013 include anti-psychotic Seroquel, blood thinner Plavix, cholesterol reducer Tricor, asthma medication Singulair, Type 2 diabetes drug Actos and heart medications Diovan and Diovan HCT. All of these drugs generated $1 billion or more in revenue in 2009 in the U.S. alone.
Generic drugs, according to MSNBC, can cost 20 to 80 percent less than brand-name equivalents. According to medical industry studies, the average generic drug costs $79 per prescription, compared to $198 for brand-name drugs, and the typical insurance co-pay for a generic drug was $6 compared to $24 for preferred brands and $35 for non-preferred brands through insurance companies. Given the difference between the cost of generic and brand-name drugs, it is clear why pharmaceutical companies spend so much on television ads, or what is called direct-to-consumer advertising. DTC ad spending, according to Time magazine, was estimated at $4.7 billion in 2008.