Wyeth ships generic Protonix, as other blockbusters boost income

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Wyeth said this week that it would begin shipping an authorized generic version of Protonix (pantoprazole), its ulcer drug, through Prasco.

The shipments follow the at-risk launch of generic pantoprazole tablets in the US by Teva Pharmaceuticals in December. Until Tuesday, a standstill agreement prevented Teva from shipping additional generic product, and it was expected to remain in effect through today. The move by Wyeth clears the way for Teva to resume shipments of its own copycat. Another company, Sun Pharmaceuticals, has final approval to ship a generic as well.

Protonix had sales of $1.91 in 2007, a 6% increase over 2006, the company reported today. Sales rose 10% in the fourth quarter to $461 million. Bear Stearns analyst John Boris estimated that Wyeth would sell only $350 million of Protonix this year, including the authorized generic. According to that model, its Protonix revenue would plummet 81%. Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Robert Uhl projected sales of generic pantoprazole copies, presumably priced at a substantial discount, of $230 million in 2008.

Fortunately for Wyeth, it's got three other blockbusters in the fold. Antidepressant Effexor had 2007 sales of $3.8 billion, a 2% increase over 2006; vaccine Prevnar $2.4 billion, a 24% rise; and anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel, for which Wyeth books ex-US sales, just over $2 billion, a 36% increase.

Meanwhile, Wyeth and Altana (which was purchased by Nycomed last year) are seeking an injunction against Teva for infringing the Protonix patent, as well as monetary damages including lost profits. Last year the US District Court for the District of New Jersey denied the companies' motion for the preliminary injunction prior to resolution of ongoing patent litigation. A trial is possible in the second half of 2008.

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