Saturday, February 11, 2012

Random News Generator- United States

I was wavering between doing an update on Beyaz, a birth-control pill we've covered here last May, or running the Random News Generator.

The RNG landed on the United States. (Yes, the US is in the hopper as well. Our number just hadn't come up until now.) So I guess we're covering Beyaz anyway.

First off, though, since there's free rein now to do any story out of the United States, let's give a mention to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where since the spring of last year, an appointed 'emergency manager', one Joseph Harris, has been given dictatorial-level authority to run the town in whatever manner he deems necessary in order to bring the city out of the red financially, stripping the power from Benton Harbor's elected officials, who had no authority to do anything but call and adjourn meetings and take minutes, until such time as they were barred from even attending them without Harris' permission. In the time since, Harris has given this list of orders, viewable at your leisure. They include firing and replacing the mayor pro tem, cancelling Constitution Week, and condemning a hotel which sat across the street from Whirlpool headquarters. Whirlpool, for its part, stands accused of essentially blackmailing Benton Harbor into giving Whirlpool whatever it wants on pain of them leaving town and taking thousands of jobs with them.

So far, Benton Harbor is still running a deficit, and was late in paying its taxes besides.

Rachel Maddow and Eclectablog have been watching Benton Harbor particularly closely, and they've now found that Harris has put the town's radio station on eBay. There are, as of this writing, two bids; the high bid is $5,100.

That noted, back to Beyaz.

Our last visit to the topic was a running of a series of commercials that showed, in order, the ad for a pill called Yaz; a government-mandated 'clear-up' ad manufacturer Bayer was forced to then run; an ad gathering people for a class-action suit because Yaz put pregnant women at risk of blood clots; and finally, an ad for Beyaz, which was quickly called out as basically Yaz with some vitamin B9 tossed in, which does little for the blood clots.

Watson Pharmaceuticals, a generic-drug company based out of Parsippany, New Jersey, is currently working on a generic of Beyaz. Which is well and good- except for why we'd want more of that pill around- but you have to wait for the patent to expire before you can do that. Bayer's patent on Beyaz doesn't expire until 2014. Bayer has, of course, balked. The patent's still active, after all. They have to defend it.

What brings us here is that Watson has formally challenged the patent. Watson does a lot of this kind of thing, having recently settled generic-drug lawsuits with Johnson & Johnson (Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, a birth control pill) and Mallinckrodt (Exalgo, a pain pill) just in the past month. A quick search also uncovers a lawsuit with Momenta and Sandoz over blood-thinning pill Lovenox, another one with Unimed over testosterone gel AndroGel, and there's this and there's this and there's this and there's this and you get the idea. If you get the feeling that it's actually part of Watson's business model, you'd probably be right; after a drug's patent expires, if you're the first generic to get approval, you get 180 days of market exclusivity before the floodgates open to everyone else. The clock doesn't necessarily start when the generic hits store shelves- court tie-ups can run the clock dry before the drug can be brought to market- but sometimes it does start when it hits the market, and it's enough of an incentive to want to be first in line, even if you have to jump the gun to do it.

And if Watson didn't jump the gun, someone else would. Lawsuits of this nature are routine (PDF) in the generic-drug industry, and often end in a settlement in which the generic holds off on entering the market until an agreed-upon date in exchange for a) being first, and b) not being financially de-pantsed by the patent-holder. If you'll go through the Watson lawsuit stories linked, you'll find that that's how things typically end.

So if things hold, you can expect Watson to release generic blood-clotting birth-control pills to a pharmacy near you before you know it.

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