Merck, maker of osteoporosis drug Fosamax, announced its plans to cut 7,200 more jobs as profits fall from declining sales in its top drug lines. Fosamax, one of Merck’s blockbuster drugs, dropped more than 50% in sales since its patent expired on February 6, 2008. Fosamax has been one of the top 100 most frequently dispensed drugs in the U.S.
The FDA approved Teva Pharmaceuticals USA to produce the first generic form of Fosamax, alendronate sodium tablets. Generic forms of prescription drugs are becoming more widely accepted. 63 percent of prescriptions were filled by generic drugs in 2006 – up from 56% in 2005. According to Gary J. Buehler, R.Ph, director of the FDA's Office of Generic Drugs, "The FDA works to assure the safety and efficacy of generic drugs through a rigorous scientific and regulatory process."
As Merck is showing declining sales, Medicare has announced that it is saving $6 billion in prescription drug costs by shifting to generic forms of drugs like Fosamax. This is down 12% from $50 billion.
In addition to Fosamax declines, Merck’s cholesterol lowering drugs Vytorin and Zetia dropped 15% while Gardasil sales, their vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, dropped 4%.
Merck said that it is looking to change its business model for the future. They want to rely less on large sales pushes and consolidate research on particular diseases in single locations. Additionally, they are planning to focus more on biotechnology drugs made from living cells. These types of drugs are more difficult to replicate than chemical drugs and thus have more profit potential as generic forms are less likely undercut their market.
Have you or someone you know experienced side effects from using Fosamax or the generic form of Fosamax? Please share your thoughts and opinions!