As top drug patents expire, pharma revenues become dire

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As top U.S. blockbuster drugs' patents begin expiring, healthcare may see a dip in bills through the purchase of cheaper, generic drugs. Pharmaceutical companies will undergo tough times when patent expiries occur for big brand name drugs like Plavix (clopidogrel) and Lipitor (atorvastatin), and patents on branded drugs valued at $133 billion expire within the next six years, according to EvaluatePharma, a London-based research firm.

“At-risk” sales are set to almost double to $33.2 billion by 2012, the largest annual total ever recorded, according to the firm. Pfizer is set to undergo the biggest loss when Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering drug, loses its expiry worth $11 billion in November, EvaluatePharma reported.

“The sector is facing an unprecedented period of patent expiries when mega-blockbusters, including Lipitor, Plavix and Zyprexa, will all be exposed to cheap, generic drugs,” EvaluatePharma said. “While this is good news in terms of lowering healthcare bills, companies like Pfizer and Eli Lilly are facing the loss of hugely profitable franchises.”

In 2012, patents on Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis’ Plavix, and Takeda’s Actos (pioglitazone) are set to expire. By 2016, the company reported that sales from these drugs, which generate an estimated $133 billion for manufacturers in the U.S. alone, will be switched to less costly generics.

In January, the FDA granted Plavix manufacturers a six-month extension for the drug, which is now set to expire May 17, 2012. Research published in Health Affairs showed that patent expiries of major brand name drugs could save $100 million in Medicare costs.

To view pharma sales for leading drug companies facing patent expiries click here.