A consortium of manufacturers has received FDA approval to launch a generic version of the huge-selling proton-pump inhibitor Prilosec (omeprazole). The launch is expected by the end of the year.
Although odds are that this could be the most significant commercial introduction of a generic product in history, cost savings are expected to be relatively modest, at least initially. Prilosec costs nearly $4 per tablet; the generic entrant is expected to fetch $3.50 per tablet during its first 180 days on the market. Underscoring the importance of this impending launch, the FDA took the unusual step of issuing a news release to announce its approval.
Of course, self-insured employers and managed care organizations welcome the generic introduction in the hope that it will reduce their costs. General Motors alone spent $55 million last year on Prilosec. Complicating factors further, AstraZeneca has been working to convert Prilosec patients to its next-generation Nexium, as well as working behind the scenes with Procter & Gamble to launch an over-the-counter version of Prilosec.
How will MCO drug formularies react? Watch this space. For now, take a look at the graphs to see changes in the formulary position of each of the major anti-ulcerant brands. It will be interesting to see how these positions evolve over the next 6 to 12 months. Based on past experience, all of the brands are likely to lose some degree of formulary access.