Zocor, which is a cholesterol-reducing drug from Merck and Zoloft, antidepressant from Pfizer is both going off patent this month. It was reported that Merck's patent for Zocor expires Friday while Zoloft loses patent protection on June 30. CNN money had earlier reported that the total sales in 2005 of Zocor were $4.4 billion and that of Zoloft totalled $3.3 billion.
It is expected that the loss of patency protection will open up competition from several pharma companies that could cause a large fall in both the price and the multi billion dollars sales revenue of the drug by an approximate estimate of 80% over the next year. But still most of the original drug makers often continue to produce their branded drugs even after their drugs goes off patent, as they could still rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales from patients who prefer the drugs with the brand name.
It was explained that many of the big pharma companies continue to make money by introducing sequels to their branded drugs such as adding suffixes like XR or XL (like in Wyeth's antidepressant EffexorXR or in the Forest Lab's antidepressant WellbutrinXL) to the original name to suggest an improvement in the previous composition.
Market analysts reportedly are of the belief that as both Merck and Pfizer have had many years to prepare for these patent expirations, the imminent loss of sales would have already been imparted into their stocks and so they don't expect a big fall in the stock price of either pharma giants.
It was explained that in preparation for the expiration of the patent, and mainly for their efforts to mollify their investor's interests both the companies have already launched multi-billion dollar cost-cutting efforts and have also already begun encouraging bioteches on an effort to improve their new-drug pipelines.
Any market analysts though believe that with the loss of patency, Zocor might threaten the sales of Lipitor, which is another anti cholesterol drug from Pfizer as there may now be stiff competition from the generic bands of Zocor. Reports have also shown that Lipitor was the world's top-selling drug with a estimated revenue of $12.2 billion in the 2005 sales.
Pfizer, and also certain analysts, have insisted that Lipitor is not alike with the competing products like Zocor. Officials from Pfizer have stated that they are looking to create market space by testing Lipitor that has been successful in lowering LDL or "bad" cholesterol, in combination with the experimental drug torcetrapib, which has shown to raise HDL, or "good" cholesterol. Many experts believe that if the tests are successful and the drug gets a FDA-approval then this potential combination could add billions of dollars in revenue in potential sales.