Merck says 'goodbye, Fosamax,' launches authorized generic

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Merck put Fosamax (alendronate sodium) and its $3 billion in total 2007 sales in its rear-view mirror yesterday, following the lapse of patent protection on the osteoporosis drug.

Merck forecast that 2008 sales will decline by at least half that, followed by more attrition later, according to a CNNMoney.com report. Fosamax is part of about $20 billion worth of drugs expected to lose patent protection this year, according to IMS Health stats cited in the report.

This month alone, upcoming patent losses will include GlaxoSmithKline asthma meds Advair ($6 billion in total sales) and Serevent ($500 million in total sales), according to BusinessWeek.

Hoping to stem some of its own losses, Merck quickly launched an authorized generic version of Fosamax (alendronate) through Watson Pharmaceuticals. Under terms of the agreement with Watson, Merck will manufacture and supply the alendronate tablets to Watson, which will market, sell and distribute the pills in the US. Merck will get a cut of US sales. Further details were not disclosed.

Also yesterday, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Barr Labs became the first two generics companies to receive FDA approval to make and sell alendronate.

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