Company news: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Epocrates

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Pfizer's Phase III tests of controlled-released Lyrica (pregabalin) have yielded a mixed bag of results. Although data from a trial assessing its use for post-herpetic neuralgia have yet to roll in, the company announced Friday that the drug failed to hit its marks as a once-a-day treatment for reducing the frequency of partial-onset epileptic seizures. The company said Monday that its Phase III studies showed the drug did have a statistically significant effect on fibromyalgia, which is associated with chronic widespread pain.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dublin-based Amarin is being courted by Teva and AstraZeneca to bolster their portfolios. Amarin's pipeline includes triglyceride-lowering medication Vascepta. One thing possibly holding up things -- both drug companies told the paper “no comment,” when asked about their purported proposals -- is that despite the FDA's July Vascepta approval, the patent office has yet to decide just how much patent protection the drug deserves. Jefferies analyst Thomas Wei's Monday research note says the company has so far pocketed a purity patent that lasts through 2020, and another that lasts through 2030. As for Vascepta itself, Wei said the patent office is choosing between three and five years of coverage, which could influence potential suitors. Meanwhile, Wei also noted that Amarin has kept its options open, neither committing to nor dismissing talk of selling the company, seeking a partner, or going along with an Amarin salesforce. Wei wrote that Amarin expects to make an announcement later this month.

Epocrates has launched an iPad version of its drug comparison app, reported MobiHealth News. The app will be familiar to users who use the phone version, but MobiHealth said the key difference is that the native iPad app makes it easier to compare drugs and check drug interactions. The news site said the release is part of a strategy Epocrates CEO Andrew Hurd is using to help turn the struggling company around. The CEO told MobiHealth that later versions may be more customized, through tools that would offer specialty-specific dashboards and help HCPs find clinical trials for their patients.

After five years of reporting and commentary, the Wall Street Journal announced it is ending the Health Blog. A eulogy for the blog by Brian Reid, director at WCG, noted that the WSJ's effort outlasted the New York Times' Prescriptions blog by four months and was partly undone by its failure to differentiate itself no longer being a unique voice.
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