Namenda-IR for Alzheimer’s, manufactured by Forest Laboratories, is a popular medication that will be going off patent in April 2015, and more than ten generic versions of the drug will be entering the market at that time. The new generic formulation, known as Memantine, will offer the same benefits at a much lower cost.
In order to maintain Namenda’s profitability, Forest Laboratories has announced that it will be discontinuing Namenda-IR, switching everyone using the medication to a new patented, extended release version known as Namenda-XR about six months before generic Memantine becomes available.
Pharmaceutical Companies Use Forced Switching to Delay Competition
Forced Switching has been used by the pharmaceutical industry strategically and legally to delay and prevent competition many times in the past. Manufacturers will discontinue a branded medication before it loses patent protection and faces generic competition and offer a different formulation in its place at a slightly different dosage or an extended release formulation that requires a different dosing schedule.
If a medication’s branded formulation remains available on the market and physicians prescribe that formulation to their patients, pharmacies are required by private and public insurance programs to instead dispense the cheaper, generic equivalent of the medication, diminishing the company’s market share and profitability.
If the branded formulation is discontinued and physicians are instead forced to prescribe a newer, patent protected branded formulation, pharmacies must continue to dispense the more expensive, branded formulation.
Forest Laboratories’ Strategy to Extend Patent and Prevent Competition
Getting as many people using the new version as soon as possible before the generic formulation is available is in Forest’s interest. Anyone with a prescription for Namenda-IR will have to get a new prescription for the newer once-a-day Namenda-XR – the one that has a longer patent life. Forest is counting on the fact that, once you are forced to switch to extended-release Namenda-XR, you will be less likely to switch to generic Memantine when it is available.
What Physicians and Patients Can Do To Keep Drug Costs Down
Forced Switching results in higher overall healthcare costs at a time when cost containment is so important. Physicians have been advised to take on the responsibility of providing cost-effective care for their patients by writing prescriptions for generic formulation Memantine at the dosage for which it has been FDA-approved. Patients are also advised to watch for the upcoming availability of Memantine and talk to their doctors about it when it becomes available.