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Patents

Pfizer apologises for Lyrica but presses ahead with patent protection strategy

Source: Jeffrey Blackler / Alamy

Company has published a letter to highlight the importance a patent has in furthering investment in drug development and research

Pfizer has apologised to pharmacists and GPs over any extra work or confusion caused by its attempts to protect the second medical use patent of its product Lyrica (pregabalin).

The apology comes in an open letter from Pfizer’s medical director Berkeley Phillips and Seema Patel, the company’s established pharma medical director, published on 8 June 2015.

“This was new territory for us,” the directors write. “We were finding our way, as was the NHS. Our intention was neither to cause confusion, nor add to your workload.”

The letter highlights the “critical” contribution a patent plays in the lifecycle of a drug and how it allows further investment in drug development and research.

The company also says that it has been in talks with prescribing software companies to see if changes can be made to electronic prescribing systems to help ensure that Lyrica is prescribed for the treatment of neuropathic pain, rather than a generic, while its patent still applies.

The letter comes after GPs at the annual British Medical Association delegates conference in May 2015 called for urgent legislation to end patent protection for specific indications of branded medicines and three weeks before Pfizer is due to return to the UK High Court in its legal challenge to protect the Lyrica patent.

Community pharmacy national negotiators have produced Lyrica guidance for pharmacists saying the issue has caused considerable extra work for pharmacies and GP practices.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068691

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