There are approximately 75 brand name drugs scheduled to go off-patent over the course of the next two years. Last week, the highly lucrative statins saw the first generic among their ranks.
If you couple that with the fact that the production of new drugs from the pipeline has shrunk, it would appear that the stage is set for a medical deflation in pharmaceutical pricing. With more generics on the market, costs will go down. With fewer new drugs on the market, the only reason for the overall price of drugs to go up is if manufacturers raise prices to account for the fact that there are fewer brand names on the market.
I’m not a market analyst, but from a public affairs perspective, if the prescription drug price inflation were to disappear, it might not be a bad thing for industry. It would cause a lot of the pressure for importation and price controls to ease. The overall public image of pharmaceutical companies might rise, or at least stop falling.
However, the stage does not appear to be set for progress at the FDA. As Marc Kaufman reported in the Washington Post the FDA is seeing a backlog on generic applications and had no plans to increase its capabilities in this area. Since this flies smack in the face of good public policy, look for more on this in the coming months.
Another consequence of patent expiration is the increased potential for drugs to move from RX to OTC status. More on that tomorrow.