Pfizer knew things would take a turn for the worse after generics for its blockbuster Lyrica launched stateside three short weeks ago. But did it know it would be this bad?
The drug’s share of U.S prescriptions crumbled to just 43% in the week ending Aug. 9 after a wave of generics hit Pfizer broadside in mid-July. According to IQVIA figures quoted by SVB Leerink, Lyrica lost a precipitous 35% share of the market to 16 competitors in the last week of July alone.
Among the current challengers to the Lyrica brand, Novartis’ Sandoz unit led the pack with 9.7% of the market. Cipla finished second with 8.1% share, and Amneal and Teva rounded out the top of the pack with 6.9% and 6.8% share, respectively.
It’s a remarkable fall from grace for Pfizer’s blockbuster, which raked in $3.6 billion in U.S. sales in 2018. Fortunately for Pfizer, the aging sales driver might not be its problem for long as the drugmaker accelerates toward the spinoff of its established products unit Upjohn.
In July, Pfizer announced the planned merger of Upjohn and Mylan, a move intended to pare down the pharma giant's sprawling business and offload its flagging off-patent meds. Pfizer said the transaction could net $12 billion that it would use to pay off debt and return shareholder dividends, but the cash could also cover “bolt-on” buys to augment the business that’s left behind.
The Upjohn spinoff would offload both Lyrica and Lipitor—another best-seller that took a long fall after its U.S. patent loss—onto Mylan. Perhaps more promising, Pfizer said it doesn’t face another loss of exclusivity until 2026.
In the meantime, though, Pfizer's Lyrica sales should continue to dwindle. But where’s the bottom? Other Pfizer patent losses could offer a clue.
In 2011, longtime blockbuster Lipitor lost its patent protection and 90% of the U.S. blood pressure market in a single year. The brand still brought in a blockbuster-worthy $407 million in the second quarter in a testament to its behemoth market.
Pfizer’s other off-patent blockbuster, the erectile dysfunction med Viagra, is still hanging in, at least percentage-wise, since losing its patent in late 2017. The drug's U.S. sales fell to $114 million in the second quarter of this year from $300 million in the same period of 2016.