Company prevented from withdrawing original formulation of Alzheimer’s drug to force patients onto extended release version and extend patent exclusivity

A US court has blocked Ireland-based firm Actavis’s attempt to forcibly shift patients onto an extended release version of one of its drugs by withdrawing the original formulation from the market.

The company’s intention was to preserve sales as generic versions of Alzheimer’s disease drug Namenda (memantine) are introduced – if patients had switched to the more convenient once-a-day formulation, which is still patent protected, then generics would have less impact.

However, a US district court issued an injunction in December 2014 requiring the company to continue distributing the original formulation. Actavis appealed, but the appeals court has now upheld the initial decision, forcing the company to keep the drug available. While the company described the decision as ‘disappointing’, it is focusing its efforts on promoting the extended release formulation, as well as recently-launched combination therapy Namzaric (memantine and donepezil) to offset any impact of generic competition.