PHARMACY

PwC projects drop in employer medical costs next year

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The growth rate for employers’ medical costs is expected to fall somewhat next year, according to a new report by industry research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The firm’s annual “Behind the Numbers” report found that medical costs would increase by 9% in 2011, a decrease of 0.5% from the 2010 growth rate. For the first time, the report said, most American workers would have health insurance deductibles of $400 or more as more employers returned to “indemnity-style” cost-sharing by raising out-of-pocket limits, replacing co-pays with co-insurance and adding high-deductible health plans.

“Health reform delivers only a minor impact on the underlying medical cost trends in 2011 and introduces hundreds of changes in the healthcare system designed to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the long term,” said Kelly Barnes, PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. health industries leader. “These changes could bring significant new costs savings opportunities for employers and payers as well as new choices and transparency for workers buying insurance.”

The report noted that generics would help bring down drug costs, with drugs representing about $26 billion in annual sales expected to lose patent protection in 2011, including top seller Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium), Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering medication.

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Gilead patent for Ranexa challenged by Lupin

BY Alaric DeArment

FOSTER CITY, Calif. Indian generic drug maker Lupin is challenging a Gilead Sciences patent for a drug that treats chronic angina, Gilead said.

Gilead said it received a notice that Lupin had filed an approval application with the Food and Drug Administration for a generic version of Ranexa (ranolazine) extended-release tablets. Lupin’s application contained a Paragraph IV certification, a legal assertion under the Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984 that Gilead’s patents covering Ranexa are invalid, unenforceable or won’t be infringed by Lupin’s version.

Under the Hatch-Waxman Act, Gilead has 45 days from the receipt of the letter to file a patent infringement lawsuit against Lupin. Such a suit would prohibit the FDA from approving Lupin’s version of the drug for two and a half years or until the court rules against Gilead. The patents covering Ranexa are set to expire in 2019, according to FDA records.

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Taro sales rise in Q1

BY Alaric DeArment

HAWTHORNE, N.Y. First-quarter sales for Taro Pharmaceutical Industries increased by 5.2% to $89.3 million from $84.9 million in first quarter 2009, the Israeli generic drug maker said Monday.

Profit for the quarter was $10.2 million, compared with $11.1 million in first quarter 2009, including a $3.8 million decrease resulting from foreign exchange expenses related to changes in rates between the U.S. and Canadian dollars.

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