Mylan aims first Lexapro copy at Forest Labs

Good news for Mylan ($MYL), not so good for Forest Laboratories ($FRX). The generic drugmaker launched its copycat version of Lexapro, Forest's top-selling antidepressant. Under a patent settlement with Forest, Mylan has exclusive reign over the Lexapro generic market until pediatric exclusivity covering the branded med expires. And that could be quite lucrative; the drug brought in $2.9 billion in sales for 2011, Mylan says.

Competing against just one generic rival won't be as bad as facing the full onslaught of Lexapro copies. But for Forest, the suffering could be intense--at least in the short term. More than half of the company's U.S. sales come from the antidepressant, and newer products haven't built up enough sales to backfill all the Lexapro losses.

Forest has said it's aiming to hang on to $2 billion of the Lexapro market this year through a combination of growth in the antidepressant market and increases in Lexapro prices.That's pretty much the opposite of Pfizer's strategy with Lipitor; the world's biggest drugmaker has been fighting generic versions of its cholesterol pill by cutting prices and helping patients with co-pays.

Meanwhile, Forest has chalked up some pipeline successes recently, suggesting there just might be relief for the Lexapro pain. An FDA advisory panel recently back its new lung drug, aclidinium, which would be marketed for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Plus, the company announced back-to-back wins in clinical trials of the antipsychotic drug it's developing for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia with Gedeon Richter.

- read the release from Mylan

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