Watson grabs market share on generic Toprol

We all know generic competition is already cutting deeply into the sales of certain recently off-patent meds. And more's to come, with a host of the globe's top-selling drugs set to fall off the patent cliff this year and next. But competition doesn't just affect the branded drugmaker--the various generics makers have to compete for business, too.

Just take a look at Toprol XL, the AstraZeneca blood pressure treatment. In 2008, Novartis' generics unit Sandoz recalled its version on manufacturing troubles; early last year, KV Pharmaceutical stopped making generic Toprol as it deals with an FDA investigation. That gave AstraZeneca a surge of business for its branded version and for an authorized generic it makes for Par Pharmaceutical. For the first half of 2009, Toprol XL sales amounted to $474 million, up from $295 million year-over-year.

But almost as quickly as AstraZeneca gained, it lost again, Dow Jones reports. Watson Pharmaceuticals launched a generic version of the drug last summer and quickly begin picking up market share, despite the fact that it hasn't been trying to lowball Par Pharma on price. That means Watson has enjoyed higher margins for its Toprol version that it otherwise would. And now Watson is asking for FDA approval for two additional dosage strengths, so it could grab even more of the generic Toprol business.

Of course all of this could change, provided Sandoz and KV work out their FDA troubles. Then the competition could get more cutthroat. But it appears that won't happen very soon. "We expect metoprolol ER will continue to be a significant contributor for us in 2010," a Watson spokeswoman told Dow Jones. What's your take?

- read the Dow Jones piece

ALSO: Morgan Stanley raised its rating on AstraZeneca to "overweight" from "equalweight" on expectations of higher R&D returns. Report