Merck joins Fosamax copycats

Merck won't be outdone on Fosamax. The company has struck a deal with an unidentified generics supplier for an authorized, copycat form of the osteoporosis drug. The Merck-blessed generic could go on sale as early as next month.

You'll recall that Fosamax's key patent is due to expire Feb. 6, and two generics makers--Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Barr Pharmaceuticals--are first in line. Because they were first to ask the FDA for approval for their versions of Fosamax, they have six-month exclusivity. But that exclusivity doesn't apply to Merck itself, which could sell its own generic form or do so with a partner.

This type of arrangement--for an authorized generic--has come under fire as more and more pharma companies have begun to engage. Critics say they destroy the competitive advantage that six-month exclusivity is designed to confer; now, the Federal Trade Commission is studying the deals

- read the Wall Street Journal article