Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly have all suffered loss of exclusivity for key drugs

Financial results for the third quarter (Q3) of 2012 from several big pharma companies reveal a dramatic loss of sales as patent protection for key drugs expires. It is an all too familiar story for the industry – but the scale of the impact is nonetheless remarkable.

Sales for Q3 at Bristol-Myers Squibb were down 30% compared with the same period last year to $3.7 billion (£2.3 billion). The company is reeling from the US expiry this year of patents protecting anticoagulant Plavix (clopidogrel) tablets and Avapro (irbesartan) tablets, for reducing blood pressure. Globally, Plavix sales fell 96% from $1.8 billion to $64 million, while Avapro sales fell 56% from $216 million to $95 million.

Meanwhile, sales for Q3 at AstraZeneca were down 19% compared with the same period last year to $6.7 billion. The company blamed in particular the loss of exclusivity for anti-psychotic Seroquel (quetiapine) tablets in March leading to generic erosion of sales of the immediate release formulation, which fell 83% from $1 billion to $170 million. The trend was the same at Eli Lilly, which suffered an 11% drop in Q3 sales to $5.4 billion driven by the expiry of patents covering anti-psychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine).

‘Bristol-Myers Squibb faced challenges in the third quarter, including the discontinuation of BMS-986094 for the treatment of hepatitis C,’ said chief executive Lamberto Andreotti. ‘I am proud of how we worked through these challenges and made the right decisions for patients.’