It's getting tougher to ride the generics-growth wave

Everyone knows that generic competition is a big problem for Big Pharma. But generics competition is also becoming a big problem for ... generics makers. Although their share of U.S. prescriptions has grown to 75 percent, generics firms are facing some tough years ahead, the Wall Street Journal reports.

One reason is that there are more generics makers than ever before. Start-up companies have stormed onto the market, the Journal notes, showing that it's a lot easier to get into the copycat drugs business than it is to jump into the world of drug development. Example: Camber Pharmaceuticals, which recently launched a generic version of the Novartis blood-pressure remedy Norvasc. Camber grabbed 9 percentage points of market share in a short period of time, largely from Mylan.

Second, Big Pharma has increasingly been turning to generics. Copycat versions of their own branded meds have been particularly successful, the Journal notes. Pfizer lost 90 percent of the Neurontin market when that drug went off patent, but after it launched its own generic, its share has grown back to 50 percent in the U.S.

There's more behind this prediction, of course. But we'll also add that as Big Pharma buys generics makers around the world, gaining economies of scale, and generics makers continue to build up their own businesses, the growth in generic-scrip volume might not translate into so much growth in revenue. One thing's for certain: There's sure to be plenty of action in the generics business as more big-time drugs go off patent.

- read the WSJ piece
- get more from the WSJ Health Blog