A legal battle has forced generic manufacturers to put on hold their plans to launch cheaper versions of the ulcer pill in the USA.
Geoff Dyer and Adrian Michaels, of FT.com, report that Andrx, a US generics manufacturer, has 6 months exclusive rights in the USA to produce a version of omeprazole. However, the company said that official approval of its drug would be delayed because of issues raised by AstraZeneca.
Analysts predict that AstraZeneca will have at least 6 months before its drug, known as Prilosec in the USA, faces generic competition.
| Omeprazole achieved sales of $6.2 billion last year.
Omeprazole achieved sales of $6.2 billion last year. It is estimated to have generated up to $1 billion in profits for AstraZeneca, comment the journalists.
The legal dispute over patents linked to omeprazole has highlighted how dependent the large pharmaceutical companies have become on a handful of successful drugs for much of their revenues.
Omeprazole accounted for some 40% of AstraZeneca's revenues last year.
As well as the extra revenue from a delay to the introduction of generic omeprazole, it will also help AstraZeneca's next-generation medicine in the same area. It has already launched esomeprazole (Nexium) and is hoping to transfer many omeprazole patients to the new medicine.
If AstraZeneca wins the legal action over its patents it could potentially maintain exclusivity on omeprazole until 2007, conclude the authors.