PHARMACY

Reviewer leaks confidential NEJM study to GSK

BY Drew Buono

WALTHAM, Mass. A peer reviewer for The New England Journal of Medicine broke confidentiality by leaking a damaging report to GlaxoSmithKline about its diabetes drug Avandia, according to published reports.

Avandia came under heavy scrutiny after May 21, 2007, when the NEJM published online an analysis of other studies into the drug’s efficacy and safety. The results showed that the drug increased the risk of heart attack by 43 percent in people who took it for at least 24 weeks. The report garnered widespread media attention, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to issue a safety alert.

But 17 days earlier, the reviewer, diabetes researcher Steven Haffner of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, had faxed his copy of the article to Alexander Cobitz, a GSK employee whom Haffner knew from working on an earlier clinical trial of the drug. “Why I sent it is a mystery,” an article in scientific journal Nature quoted Haffner as saying. “I don’t really understand it. I wasn’t feeling well. It was a bad judgment.”

Nancy Pekarek, a spokeswoman for GSK, says that the company did not offer any input to Haffner on the analysis, and that she was not aware of anyone at GSK informing the NEJM of the confidentiality breach. The company has said that it had already been in contact with the FDA regarding potential cardiovascular side effects when Haffner sent the report.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has been investigating GSK’s handling of Avandia, said yesterday that he has sent a letter to GSK asking it to detail what action, if any, the company took after receiving the advance copy. He asked GSK to provide details of when it began examining the Record results, which was a study GSK used to answer questions concerning the risks of Avandia. The study showed that Avandia was just as safe as other diabetic medications on the market.

In November, after being ordered to do so by the FDA, GSK added a black-box warning on Avandia packaging.

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PHARMACY

Despite solid fourth quarter, Wyeth cautious about 2008

BY Drew Buono

MADISON, N.J. Wyeth released its 2007 fourth-quarter report and it showed that while the company profited in the fourth quarter, the company expects 2008 to be an off year, according to published reports.

Wyeth said net income for the three months that ended Dec. 31 rose to $1.02 billion from $855.4 million. Wyeth’s fourth-quarter sales rose 10 percent to $5.76 billion from $5.22 billion a year earlier. Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million.

Wyeth, though, now is facing trouble for 2008, and it comes in the form of generic competition. Generic manufacturers recently began selling copycat versions of Wyeth’s drug Protonix, for heartburn, which is expected to erode sales of Wyeth’s product.

Wyeth said it planned on seeking lost profits and other damages from the generics companies in a patent-infringement trial expected later this year. Protonix had $1.9 billion in sales in 2007. Wyeth also faces potential new generic competition for two other major drugs, the antidepressant Effexor and antibiotic Zosyn.

Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million, but those sales might take a hit if Sun Pharmaceuticals launches a tablet version of the extended release version of Effexor in the summer.

Protonix sales rose 10 percent to $461 million. But Wyeth has lost U.S. market exclusivity for the drug after generic drugmakers Teva Pharmaceuticals and Caraco Pharmaceutical Labs—owned by Sun—launched copycat versions, despite the existence of a patent set to expire in 2010. Wyeth this week began selling its own generic Protonix in partnership with Prasco Laboratories.

Wyeth said it now expects 2008 earnings of $3.35 to $3.49 per share, excluding certain items, representing a decrease of 1 to 5 percent from 2007 levels. Analysts had expected 2008 earnings of $3.54 per share. The company also expects to cut its 50,000-employee workforce by 4-to-6 percent during the middle of this year,

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Teva launches generic Protonix

BY Drew Buono

NORTH WALES, Pa. Teva has launched its newest drug, a generic version of the Wyeth acid reflux drug Protonix. The drug is named Pantoprazole Sodium Delayed-Release.

The drug will be available in both strengths of the brand, 20 and 40 mgs in bottles of 90.

“Our customers count on Teva for a continuous supply of new generic products,” stated John Denman, vice president of. Sales and Marketing. “With the launch of pantoprazole sodium delayed-release tablets we add another quality product to our broad line of affordable generic pharmaceuticals.

This launch comes just a day after Wyeth released their own generic version of the drug, in hopes of keeping some of the market share they would have lost due to generic competition. Near the end of this year, Teva and Sun Pharma had received approval to launch a generic version of Protonix.

The drug had sales of $2.5 billion in 2007, according to Wyeth.

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