Safer pills, higher sales?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - BUSINESS -

A fed­er­ally-backed push to make pre­scrip­tion painkillers harder to abuse could de­liver a wind­fall to a hand­ful of drug­mak­ers in the nearly $10 bil­lion mar­ket for the med­i­ca­tions.

Fa­tal over­doses linked to painkillers have been climb­ing for more than 15 years, hit­ting an all-time high of nearly 15,000 in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fed­eral fig­ures. Part of the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse is to en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment of drugs that are harder to ma­nip­u­late. For ex­am­ple, Pur­due Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ block­buster OxyCon­tin has been re­for­mu­lated to be harder to crush and dis­solve for snort­ing or in­ject­ing. But these so-called abuse-de­ter­rent drugs rep­re­sent just a frac­tion of the U.S. mar­ket. Drugs with FDA-ap­proved anti-abuse fea­tures made up just 2 per­cent of the 248 mil­lion opi­oid pre­scrip­tions writ­ten last year. That could soon change, ac­cord­ing to Jan­ney an­a­lyst Ken Tr­bovich. He says the FDA could re­move some older opi­oids from the mar­ket in fa­vor of the newer — and pricier — for­mu­la­tions. Re­mov­ing generic ex­tended-re­lease mor­phine, for ex­am­ple, would cre­ate a $2.5 bil­lion op­por­tu­nity for drug­mak­ers, he writes. Pfizer’s Embeda and In­spirion De­liv­ery Sciences’ Mor­phabond are both harder-to-abuse mor­phine med­i­ca­tions.

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