No apolo­gies for seek­ing Alzheimer’s drug prof­its, says drug­maker Ac­tavis


A lawyer for the Ir­ish man­u­fac­turer of an Alzheimer’s drug urged a U.S. ap­peals court on Mon­day to let it re­place a two-pill daily reg­i­men with a sin­gle-dose ver­sion of the drug even if it cheats generic drug­mak­ers of prof­its.

At­tor­ney Lisa Blatt told the 2nd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Man­hat­tan that Dublin-based Ac­tavis PLC makes no apolo­gies for max­i­miz­ing its prof­its, though a De­cem­ber court rul­ing has al­ready caused it to lose at least US$200 mil­lion in sales and forced it to spend tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in pro­mo­tions that oth­er­wise would not be nec­es­sary.

“A com­pany doesn’t have to apol­o­gize for want­ing to make money off its in­no­va­tions,” Blatt told a three-judge panel. “For hun­dreds and hun­dreds and hun­dreds of thou­sands of pa­tients, the drug is an im­prove­ment.”

She urged the judges to re­verse a lower-court judge who or­dered the com­pany to con­tinue dis­tribut­ing the two-dose ver­sion of the drug Na­menda af­ter generic al­ter­na­tives be­come avail­able July 11. She said the new ver­sion of the drug first in­tro­duced in 2004 was in­no­va­tive.

About 500,000 pa­tients take the orig­i­nal ver­sion while an­other 240,000 have switched to the new dosage, with thou­sands of pa­tients per month switch­ing, court pa­pers say.

The ap­peals panel did not im­me­di­ately rule, though Blatt urged it to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion and is­sue a writ­ten rul­ing ex­plain­ing why later.

Blatt, us­ing blunt and col­or­ful lan­guage that seemed to amuse the judges, said Ac­tavis was be­ing pun­ished for switch­ing cus­tomers to an im­proved ver­sion of its Alzheimer’s drug too close to the en­try date for sales by com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing generic im­i­ta­tions of a drug she said was now ob­so­lete.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man sued the com­pany last year, say­ing it and its state sub­sidiary For­est Lab­o­ra­to­ries vi­o­lated anti-trust and state laws by ad­ver­tis­ing that it was dis­con­tin­u­ing the two-dose ver­sion of the drug in a bid to block com­pe­ti­tion and avoid losses once generic al­ter­na­tives were sold.

Sch­nei­der­man ac­cused the com­pany of ma­nip­u­lat­ing the sup­ply and dis­tri­bu­tion of its prod­uct to force users of the drug to switch to the new ver­sion, know­ing Alzheimer’s pa­tients and their doc­tors are ex­cep­tion­ally re­luc­tant to switch med­i­ca­tions with­out a strong rea­son to do so.

On Mon­day, Deputy Solic­i­tor Gen­eral Anisha S. Das­gupta told the ap­peals panel that the ef­fort by Ac­tavis to force Alzheimer’s pa­tients to switch to its new drug was hard on pa­tients “very sen­si­tive to change in their med­i­cal rou­tine.”

Given a chance to re­but the state’s claims, Blatt said of Das­gupta’s ar­gu­ments: “Ev­ery­thing she just said in the last 10 min­utes was just wrong, dead wrong!”

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