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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Aetna sues Express Scripts over specialty pharmacy

BY Drew Buono

PHILADELPHIA Last month, in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Aetna filed a lawsuit accusing Express Scripts of “knowing, malicious, willful, deliberate and bad faith misrepresentations and outrageous misconduct” in allegedly interfering with pacts between Aetna and Priority Healthcare in the specialty pharmacy market, according to the Associated Press.

Express Scripts acquired Priority Healthcare in 2005, the year after Aetna and Priority had joined together to start a specialty pharmacy venture, Aetna Specialty Pharmacy. After Express Scripts acquired Priority, Aetna exercised its option to buy out Priority’s stake in the joint venture for $75 million, making Aetna Specialty Pharmacy a subsidiary of the health insurer.

Now, Aetna is looking to recover that $75 million plus punitive damages and injunctive relief to make Express Scripts honor the original agreement between Priority and Aetna.

Aetna alleges that Express Scripts, by violating the law and the agreements for the Aetna-Priority joint venture, has “gained an unfair competitive advantage” that precludes the health insurer and its specialty pharmacy business from “prospective advantageous relationships and markets.” Among its claims, Aetna says that its special pharmacy business has been wrongly denied access to certain limited-availability drugs, which has limited its opportunities to develop new markets.

Aetna also alleges that even before the pharmacy benefits manager announced its acquisition of Priority Healthcare in 2005, Express Scripts aimed to injure or destroy Aetna’s efforts to establish a “best of class,” standalone, independent specialty pharmaceutical business by depriving it of best-pricing guarantees in Aetna’s joint-venture agreements with Priority and the benefit of Priority’s supplier and vendor contracts.

Express Scripts has not yet filed a response.

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New Mexico disallows second-party prescription pickups without I.D.

BY Drew Buono

GALLUP, N.M. On Jan. 1, a law originated by the New Mexico state pharmacy board was put into effect that required anyone who picked up a prescription for someone else had to present a government issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or an ID card, according to published reports. The law was created to stop fraudulent prescriptions from being filled.

One of the first people to be arrested under this new law was Michelle Florene Roan, who had attempted this stunt many times and had previously gotten away with it. She was arrested at a Wal-Mart pharmacy after coming in with a fake prescription for a narcotic.

Tom Ortega, a pharmacist at Trust Pharmacy is on the state pharmacy board that enacted this law. “We are a small pharmacy here in Grants, I know everyone who comes in,” Ortega said.

“If I don’t know them, or if they have a prescription from an out-of-state doctor, I contact the doctor’s office to see if it is good,” he said. The reason Roan probably selected Wal-Mart to try to get the drugs is it is located right next to Interstate 40 and is accessible to all the traffic and is very busy, Ortega said.

The new law is working so far; people trying to pick up prescriptions for other people has dropped by 70 percent.

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