Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Duramed takes on Premarin's maker

Wyeth-Ayerst accused of monopolizing

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Pleasant Ridge has accused rival Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories of illegally monopolizing the market for estrogen products.

        Those products include Duramed's Cenestin — a synthetic, plant-derived drug that treats menopause symptoms — that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late March.

        It is the only direct competitor to Wyeth-Ayerst's Premarin, which is made from the urine of pregnant horses and is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States.

        In an antitrust lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, Duramed alleges that Wyeth-Ayerst — a division of drug giant American Home Products — has illegally coerced health-care organizations to enter into exclusive contracts for Premarin.

        Duramed charges that Wyeth-Ayerst has offered incentives to health plans that promise to use Premarin exclusively.

        Duramed also alleges that Wyeth-Ayerst has misrepresented Cenestin as being less effective than Premarin.

        “This action is about eliminating illegal conduct,” said E. Thomas Arington, Duramed's president and chief executive.

        “These issues are critical to Duramed's business, and we feel it is our duty to shareholders to protect their interests.”

        A Wyeth-Ayerst spokesman declined to respond, saying the company does not comment on pending litigation.

        Duramed is seeking an injunction barring Wyeth-Ayerst from anti-competitive conduct and wants unspecified damages.

        Cenestin has struggled since receiving FDA approval as an alternative to Premarin.

        Duramed, whose share price skyrocketed after Cenestin's approval, has said it probably won't regain profit ability until after the first quarter because of the expense of getting Cenestin to market.

        Cenestin is widely considered Duramed's cash cow, with the company targeting annual sales of $100 million.

        Although Cenestin remains the centerpiece of Duramed's long-term strategy, the company sells more than a half-dozen other products that it hopes will bring the company to profitability.


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