PHARMACY

Watson gets boost in Q3 from new product introductions

BY Alaric DeArment

MORRISTOWN, N.J. Profits for generic drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals got a big boost during third quarter 2009, jumping to $76.1 million from third quarter 2008’s $54 million, the company announced in an earnings report.

Sales of generic drugs were $392.3 million, an 11% increase over $352.2 million last year, thanks to the introduction of such new products as the hypertension and chest pain treatment metoprolol extended-release tablets. At the same time, lower sales of omeprazole – a generic version of AstraZeneca’s Prilosec – offset the increase. Profits from generic drugs were $200.6 million, a $44.9 million increase over third quarter 2008.

The company’s portfolio of branded drugs – such as the benign prostatic hyperplasia treatment Rapaflo (silodosin) and the overactive bladder treatment Gelnique (oxybutynin chloride) – contributed also, with revenues of more than $112 million.

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PHARMACY

Merck, Schering-Plough to complete merger

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. will complete their merger Tuesday, Merck announced.

The two companies will begin combined operations Wednesday, with Schering-Plough adopting the Merck name and Schering-Plough stock becoming stock in the combined company.

The announcement of the merger follows recent clearance from regulatory authorities in China, Europe and Mexico, as well as the recent finalization of Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth.

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Bristol-Myers Squibb on Baraclude: Better efficacy than competitor

BY Alaric DeArment

BOSTON A Bristol-Myers Squibb drug used to treat hepatitis B kept viral load levels down more effectively than its competitor, according to study results announced by the company.

Bristol presented results in Boston Saturday at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease’s annual meeting of a 48-week study comparing Baraclude (entecavir) with Gilead Sciences’ Hepsera (adefovir) in 191 patients with chronic hepatitis B infection with severe cirrhosis of the liver, also known as decompensated cirrhosis. Liver disease accounts for up to 25% of hepatitis B-related deaths.

Halfway through the study, 49% of 100 patients taking Baraclude had an undetectable viral load, compared with 16% of the 91 taking Hepsera. By the end of the study, 57% of Baraclude patients had an undetectable load, versus 20% of Hepsera patients.

“This study represents an important step in addressing an unmet medical need, as this is one of the first comparative studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of antiviral therapy in this difficult-to-treat patient population,” said Hugo Cheinquer, study investigator and associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. “Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong disease, and these data suggest that treatment with Baraclude may offer chronic hepatitis B patients with decompensated cirrhosis a treatment option.”

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