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10 of the Largest Drug Patents Are Headed for the Cliff

The pharmaceutical industry is fast approaching an epic change, and while many corporations have already fallen off the “Patent Cliff,” even more companies will soon be floundering—or are floundering already—as the patents of some of the biggest brand name drugs in the business expire over the next twelve months.

Some well-known companies have already started bracing for impact: Pfizer and Merck, for instance, have merged with major rivals in order to stay afloat.

Other companies have begun to expand into foreign markets that were previously disregarded; others have started focusing more on generics and over-the-counter medicines.

Still, others have continued to gamble with the chance that they would develop enough new products to stay afloat. 

Over the next twelve months, these ten huge drug patents will be up. These patents include some of the highest grossing drugs in pharmaceutical history, such as:

  1. Lexapro (Forest Laboratories)
  2. Actos (Takeda Pharmaceutical)
  3. Plavix (Bristol-Myers Squibb)
  4. Seroquel (AstraZeneca)
  5. Zyprexa (Eli Lilly)
  6. Lipitor (Pfizer)
  7. Singulair (Merck)
  8. Diovan (Novartis)
  9. Provigil (Teva Pharmaceutical)
  10. TriCor (Abbott Laboratories)
This list is ranked by the weight in each company's US revenue stream.

While the decline of prices in drugs will not be too great for drug companies, consumers will greatly benefit.

Howard Weintraub, a cardiologist at New York University, reported that he has seen countless patients who, prescribed unaffordable name brand drugs, beg for free samples; the other option, unfortunately, is to simply not fill the prescriptions, or to fill the expensive prescription but to “stretch it out” for as long as possible.

"People come in with their blood pressure not as well controlled,” stated  Weintraub, “or they come in and their cholesterol's all of a sudden mysteriously higher. And you realize, OK, the medicine hasn't stopped working, but you also realize the medicine doesn't work when it's still in the bottle.”

As of now, generic drugs already make up 70% to 80% of drug sales, and it is anticipated that this percentage will only grow.

Michael Kleinrock, from the marketing research firm IMS Health, reported that one of the major causes Medicare spent $50 billion less than federal officials projected five years earlier is patent expirations.

According to Kleinrock, the average daily cost of drugs dropped one-third between 2005 and 2010, and should continue to fall further between now and the year 2015.

To think, one year from now, generics will have taken over the industry for these top ten brand drugs. As the inevitable cliff approaches, what else is there for pharmaceutical companies to do but brace for impact?

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