Company news: Pfizer, Orexigen

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Reports that Pfizer is pulling out of the Lipitor business are somewhat premature, spokesperson MacKay Jimeson told MM&M, in response to our queries about a Wall Street Journal report he said left many with the impression that Pfizer was abandoning the once-blockbuster statin. According to the Journal, Pfizer is pulling promotional support for the drug, but Jimeson said that's simply not true. "As generic options increase, we expect it to become increasingly difficult for patients to access branded Lipitor due to changes in health plans' coverage for Lipitor," he said in a company statement. The company response noted that Pfizer will back Lipitor's reach “Through continued communications with patients and healthcare professionals, our goal is to provide information about the Lipitor For You program and help give patients the ability to remain on the brand that they and their doctors have chosen.” The company has seen steady erosion of Lipitor sales since losing patent exclusivity in November. The slump was swift -- rejected claims jumped in December and WellPoint announced in February that it was going to pull the drug from many of its coverage areas -- but Pfizer fought, with some success, to hold onto its shrinking share of the market with co-pay cards. US sales nonetheless plummeted 71% during the first quarter, to $383 million, compared to $1.3 billion in patent-protected US sales during the first quarter of 2011. Now, with multiple generics entering the market, Pfizer is likely to lose much of its remaining hold on the market.

Orexigen said first-quarter losses narrowed to $10.4 million for the quarter ended March 31 -- compared to losses of $11.6 million for the same period last year. The maker of the experimental obesity drugs Contrave and Empatic rang in $857,000 in sales for the quarter, compared to $1.9 million for the same period last year. Sales fell due to a lack of licensing revenue. The San Diego company said it's set to begin recruiting for a heart-safety clinical trial for Contrave this quarter. The trial will include about 10,000 patients. The company said it is paying close attention to the FDA's upcoming review of Vivus' drug Qnexa, which executives referred to by its chemical makeup, phentermine-topiramate, because anti-seizure medications are part of the mix for both Qnexa and Empatic. CEO Michael Narachi said the Qnexa fallout will determine how the company proceeds with Empatic's subsequent development. The weight-loss category has received particular attention this quarter -- Arena's drug, locaserin, is before an FDA panel today, days after a study was presented at the Centers for Disease Control conference that projected 42% of American adults will be obese by 2030. This would be an increase from the current statistics which indicate about 33% of US adults are obese.
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