The industry has talked nonstop for a couple of years about the patent loss of blockbuster drugs and the impact, earnings losses, job cuts, R&D retrenchment, job losses, CEO job losses. In fact, this year has been the worst, literally. Industry researcher EvaluatePharma estimates that patent protection will be stripped away this year on drugs with an estimated $67 billion in sales, a peak year, to borrow industry jargon. Between now and 2018, $290 billion in drug sales are vulnerable to generic competition.
The products that have fallen before the generic onslaught this year include legendary names: AstraZeneca's ($AZN) antipsychotic drug Seroquel, Lundbeck's antidepressant Lexapro, and diabetes drug Actos from Takeda Pharmaceutical Industries, to name a few. Merck's ($MRK) asthma and allergy drug Singulair displays like neon in the night the havoc generics can wreak on a blockbuster. Last year, it had sales of $3.3 billion. It lost protection this August and in just four weeks, sales fell nearly 90%.
Of course there is a flip side to this. The generics makers that are in on the ground floor of a copycat launch are seeing their earnings fattened. But given that generics come in at huge discounts, we were pondering: What kinds of drugs can reach blockbuster-sized sales as generics?
First, not many. According to IMS Health sales data for the 12 months that ended June 30, only 5 generics exceeded $1 billion in sales. Some of the products won't be a surprise. It is a larger they are, the harder they fall scenario. Still others may not be what you would generally expect. We present them here, and even throw in a bonus track, a sixth drug that in 8 months of sales came in close enough to the billion-dollar certifier that we thought we would include it for reference.
The generics here cover many different conditions and a number of different generics makers. In two cases, the sales of a couple of generic companies are combined to hit the billion-dollar mark but in one case, two different generics makers each sold more than $1 billion worth of their generic version of the onetime king of drugs. I am, of course, referring to Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor.
As always, we invite your thoughts and observations. Comment or email and engage one another in a discussion of what this all means for the industry. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)