So we’ve had an industry veteran, a cardiologist and now the Anonymous Academic makes his (or her) way onto the THCB platform to talk about, what else, statins. I barely have to write or think about this subject any more! (My limited comments are in the text in plain text not italics):
The really important upcoming development in the statin market is the fact that both Pravachol and Zocor are losing patent protection in the U.S. within the next 2 years. Once that happens, it will be interesting to see what happens to sales of Lipitor and Crestor. My guess is that a lot of people will switch to the generics.
I think both companies (Pfizer and A-Z) have a very tough road ahead, especially Pfizer. It’s remarkable that they have been able to turn Celebrex into a $3 billion drug given that it is no better than naproxen or ibuprofen in preventing GI bleeding. (see this post from yesterday) It is even more remarkable that they have been able to turn Norvasc into a $4 billion drug even though it is no better that generic diuretics that cost a few cents per pill. However, all of Pfizer’s blockbuster products (which together account for more than 80 percent of PFE’s pharmaceutical sales) are going to face a lot of new competition in the next few years:
— Dr. Reddy’s Norvasc knockoff, AmVaz, is expected to come to market in 2004;
— Celebrex and Bextra will face increased competition from Novartis’s Prexige and Merck’s Arcoxia in 2004-05;
— Zoloft’s U.S. patent will expire in 2005;
— Generic versions of Neurontin are on their way very shortly in the U.S.;
— Viagra is facing increased competition from Cialis and Levitra;
— Zithromax’s patent will expire in 2005.
— Zyrtec will face competition in the U.S. market from generic Allegra in 1Q 2004. It already faces competition from OTC Claritin; and
— Diflucan loses U.S. patent protection in 1Q 2004.
Pfizer will be OK for the next year or two, but after that it will be virtually impossible to maintain double-digit sales growth, as it did throughout the 1990s. In fact, I think they will be lucky to have any growth. Their only hope is a bailout in the form of a new government program called "Medicare prescription drug benefit."
Well our Anonymous Academic is a little snide about that Medicare program, which I don’t think gives the pharmas so much a big new market as protects their back from price controls in the medium term. But the information about Pfizer is pretty interesting. It’s not of course just Pfizer among big pharma which is in some trouble. Merck has its own patent problems and as Derek Lowe reports at In the Pipeline, it also seems to be having problems with its pipeline too. But Pfizer’s performance in dealing with all these patent and competitively related pressures–particularly in the statin market–is key in determining if the pharma company as "marketing machine" that we saw in the 1990s has a long term future. Given, though, the success it’s had so far persuading both doctors and patients to do what’s good for Pfizer (and often good for patients too, let’s not forget), don’t write this company off quite yet.