NEW YORK — A lawyer for the Irish manufacturer of an Alzheimer's drug urged a U.S. appeals court on Monday to let it replace a two-pill daily regimen with a single-dose version of the drug even if it cheats generic drugmakers of profits.
Attorney Lisa Blatt told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that Dublin-based Actavis PLC makes no apologies for maximizing its profits, though a December court ruling has already caused it to lose at least $200 million in sales and forced it to spend tens of millions of dollars in promotions that otherwise would not be necessary.
"A company doesn't have to apologize for wanting to make money off its innovations," Blatt told a three-judge panel. "For hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of patients, the drug is an improvement."
She urged the judges to reverse a lower-court judge who ordered the company to continue distributing the two-dose version of the drug Namenda after generic alternatives become available July 11. She said the new version of the drug first introduced in 2004 was innovative.
About 500,000 patients take the original version while another 240,000 have switched to the new dosage, with thousands of patients per month switching, court papers say.
The appeals panel did not immediately rule, though Blatt urged it to take immediate action and issue a written ruling explaining why later.
Blatt, using blunt and colorful language that seemed to amuse the judges, said Actavis was being punished for switching customers to an improved version of its Alzheimer's drug too close to the entry date for sales by companies manufacturing generic imitations of a drug she said was now obsolete.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the company last year, saying it and its state subsidiary Forest Laboratories violated anti-trust and state laws by advertising that it was discontinuing the two-dose version of the drug in a bid to block competition and avoid losses once generic alternatives were sold.
Schneiderman accused the company of manipulating the supply and distribution of its product to force users of the drug to switch to the new version, knowing Alzheimer's patients and their doctors are exceptionally reluctant to switch medications without a strong reason to do so.
On Monday, Deputy Solicitor General Anisha S. Dasgupta told the appeals panel that the effort by Actavis to force Alzheimer's patients to switch to its new drug was hard on patients "very sensitive to change in their medical routine."
Given a chance to rebut the state's claims, Blatt said of Dasgupta's arguments: "Everything she just said in the last 10 minutes was just wrong, dead wrong!"