No Namenda hard switch? No problem, Actavis execs say, with Namzaric on the horizon

Actavis ($ACT) hit a hurdle for Alzheimer's blockbuster Namenda when a court nixed its plot to force patients over to a new, long-acting formula. But as the Dublin drugmaker waits for an answer from an appeals court, it's got a backup plan in place--one that's going very well, execs say.

For starters, the company says it's already moved half of Namenda (memantine) patients to the patent-protected Namenda XR, even without the hard switch, thanks to its more convenient dosing schedule. And as CFO Maria Teresa Hilado said during the company's Q1 earnings call, Actavis assumes the conversion will be trending to 60% by the end of this quarter.

That's a rate CEO Brent Saunders called "nothing short of extraordinary," considering the pharma pulled "off the shelf a Plan B" just 24 hours after the December court ruling that thwarted its hard switch.

Actavis CEO Brent Saunders

But Actavis has another weapon, too, and that's Namzaric--a pill that combines the active ingredient in Eisai's Aricept (donepezil) with Namenda's (memantine). After winning FDA approval for the combo in December, Actavis is ready to roll it out--and that's going to be a "sales accelerator," says Actavis' EVP of branded pharma, Bill Meury.

With Namzaric, Saunders said Actavis would unlock a donepezil market segment worth some $2 billion, making its market larger than the new Namenda's. And the way Meury sees it, it's a "stronger selling proposition" than Namenda XR, with fewer necessary pills and administrations, no increase in side effects and better efficacy.

Actavis EVP Bill Meury

All things considered, if Actavis can grab formulary coverage, it thinks it can move patients over to Namzaric in addition to Namenda XR before generics rip into the original Namenda formula this July. With the full promotional launch--including DTC efforts, Saunders said--happening later this month, Actavis will have some time to work on doing just that.

"It's taken a lot of effort and a lot of investment and a lot of energy, but I think we're going to reach the target," Meury said.

- read the call transcript

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