Expired patents mean big losses for Big Pharma

A pharmacist counts pills to fill a prescription.

Jeremy Hobson: We're getting a look at the health of the pharmaceutical industry today with earnings from companies like Johnson & Johnson, and Forest Laboratories. Analysts are seeing a bit of a downer from the drug companies this quarter.

Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports.


Jennifer Collins: Patents are about to expire on several blockbusters: Plavix, Zyprexa and cholesterol drug Lipitor. That last one is the bestselling drug in the world.

Lipitor advertisement: I trust my heart to Lipitor.

But millions of people may start trusting their hearts to generics once Pfizer loses that patent.

Chris Bowe: Thus they meet what they call a patent cliff.

Analyst Chris Bowe says Pfizer's sales of Lipitor could drop by half in as little as a year. So Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies need to have a stream of drugs in development. Miller Tabak's Les Funtleyer says, these days, there's been a shortage.

Les Funtleyder: Drugs are going generic faster than pharmaceutical companies can create new ones.

So what they can't create, they buy.

Funtleyder: Which is why you've seen a lot of acquisitions.

And Funtleyder says that is likely to continue.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...