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November 4, 2002
Generic Prilosec - the Sequel
The sequel to the Prilosec (omeprazole) patent case (see the October 13 post) is an interesting one. The only company to prevail against AstraZeneca's patents on their tablet coating was a small one, Schwarz Pharma. At the time, I said "Now it'll depend on whether Schwarz can actually get the stuff on the market." One problem was that the other two companies, Andrx and Genpharm (part of Germany's Merck KGaA) had won the right to be first on the market with generic omeprazole. (They're appealing the original decision, and the exclusivity lasts for six months after the appeals court ruling, whenever the heck that might be.)
But rather than put all their chips on that outcome, the three companies have now teamed up, in a move too sensible for me to have foreseen, This "come, let us reason together" spirit was surely quite profitable for Schwarz, although I don't think anyone's seen the terms of the deal. Time is most definitely money in this case, which accounts for the speed of the negotiations. AstraZeneca's trying to get as many people off of Prilosec and on to Nexium as they can, and on the other, there's that six-month clock that'll start ticking. I believe that AZN is ready to get into the generic Prilosec business itself, if need be. Let's see how fast the competition is in getting the pills turned out. . .
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