I’m not sure what I expected when my doctor prescribed an Advair diskus for a persistent cough that lingered for several weeks last year, but it certainly wasn’t a pharmacy bill of $280 dollars and a month of living on lentils and rice. Fortunately, the Advair diskus took care of the cough within a week, and I haven’t had to fork over the nearly $300 for another one since then, but I can only imagine the strain on the monthly budget to pay for Advair month after month if you have asthma or any other chronic respiratory condition.
Unfortunately, even though GlaxoSmithKline’s patent on Advair is due to expire next year, it’s starting to look like a low-cost generic version of Advair may not be available any time soon, according to The Wall Street Journal:
The asthma treatment combines two drugs in a fine powder that’s inhaled through an intricate device called a Diskus. Few generic companies have the know-how to make complicated inhaled drugs, and even the ones that do are finding it a tough task. The two largest generic-drug makers—Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc. and Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit—have each hired a raft of Glaxo veterans to help them with the work.
The challenge illustrates a coming change in the generics wars. For years, the most profitable drugs—mostly pills made of chemicals—have been fairly easy for generics companies to copy, requiring a straightforward chemical synthesis. But the next wave includes more-complicated inhaled drugs and others made of complex biological ingredients. Replicating them will require skills that many generics makers don’t yet have.
Glaxo Chief Executive Andrew Witty recently thumbed his nose at generics rivals attempting to copy Advair. “We have seen all sorts of people stub their toe on what everybody thought was a very easy proposition,” he said during a conference call with analysts last month. “I remain of the view that we are likely to have Advair as a very major product for GSK for a very long time.”
But even though developing a generic copy of Advair may be a tough row to hoe, it doesn’t mean that some major pharmaceutical companies aren’t trying. Sandoz is still working on developing its own generic version of Advair, and analysts believe that Novartis’ acquisition of a small company founded by former GlaxoSmithKline executives is another move to develop a generic version of Advair. Generic pharmaceutical giant Teva may have given up working on a copy that is perfectly substitutable by FDA standards, but it is still working on working on a product that is similar to and hopefully, much cheaper.
We’ll be crossing our fingers in the meantime.
Do you use Advair? Tell us about it!
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