Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Drops Development of Monthly Injectable Risperdal

August 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

According to PharmLive, manufacturer Alkermes, Inc. was recently informed that Ortho-Mcneil-Janssen (commonly known as Janssen), a branch of Johnson & Johnson, has dropped development of a 4 week long-acting Risperdal injectable while still producing the bi-monthly Risperdal Consta. Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic.

Janssen continues to commercialize RISPERDAL® CONSTA® (risperidone) Long-Acting Injection in over 60 countries worldwide. RISPERDAL CONSTA is based on Alkermes’ Medisorb ®  technology and is manufactured by Alkermes. It is the first and only long-acting atypical antipsychotic therapy available for both the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder.

Of course with antipsychotics being the number one drug class by sales in the US, this isn’t going unnoticed by Wall Street. According to Reuters:

Alkermes Inc (ALKS.O) shares slipped as much as 13 percent a day after it said units of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) have decided not to pursue further development of a four-week long-acting version of antipsychotic drug risperidone.

I’m no trader but a thirteen percent drop seems pretty substantial for a drug manufacturer, especially based on the halted development of just one drug. It would appear as though a lot of eggs were in this particular basket. In another view of antipsychotic use from the financial arena, Morningstar mentions the drug’s risks in passing while discussing the potential for competition and conflict of interest in one company marketing two monthly-injectable antipsychotics. (Emphasis mine.)

Without a once-monthly version, the bimonthly Risperdal Consta will probably have to compete with a once-monthly version of Johnson & Johnson’s drug Invega Sustenna, which has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. While Invega Sustenna has demonstrated some issues with safety, we think it will pose strong competition in the United States on the basis of its convenience factor, if approved. Schizophrenia patients are often noncompliant with taking their medication, so physicians prefer to prescribe long-acting medications. We were surprised by the sudden move of Janssen to forgo the project, but we did wonder about the potential conflict of interest involved with marketing both Invega Sustenna and Risperdal Consta.

Clearly what are presented as numbers and sales among stock analysts translate to real people at street level. In frank financial terms, however, they are just conditions to factor into the gamble like mud on the horse track. To be fair, it’s not like America doesn’t have a consuming culture built largely around the idea of trading safety for convenience but antipsychotics are a far cry from Big Macs.

It was interesting to stumble across the issue from a purely financial standpoint and it does make one take notice. A manufacturer’s financial standing is on a fairly remarkable downturn based on one drug which would seem to indicate how important that drug or class of drugs is to the market. If there is any arena in which safety, efficacy and compliance are simply marketing conditions, one should at least question to what extent the market has an effect on the actual human beings that are buying or being forced to take those drugs.

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