Pfizer has defended its decision to prevent the generic version of Lyrica being prescribed for pain, in the face of concerns from pharmacists.
Numark told C+D on Thursday (February 19) it had received more than 20 queries in two days from pharmacists about the continuation of Pfizer's Lyrica patent to treat pain, despite a generic version coming onto the market.
The general patent for Lyrica expired in July 2014, but Pfizer will retain the product's patent for the treatment of pain until July 2017. The manufacturer told C+D it appreciated this was an “unusual and complex situation” and said it was in “continuing discussions” with NHS England to issue guidance on how the drug should be prescribed.
Gary Choo, head of Numark’s information service, said some pharmacies were only able to order two packs of Lyrica each week. If they ran out of the brand, there would be a “temptation” to dispense the generic alternative pregablin for pain-related prescriptions as it was the duty of the pharmacist to supply medicines without undue delay, he pointed out.
“At the end of the day, we are here to supply and look after our patients. If that is being compromised by a commercial agreement, then where do we stand?” Mr Choo added.
But Pfizer said it “did not foresee this being an issue”. The manufacturer routinely monitored purchases to “ensure continuity of medicines supply at all times” and anticipated that pharmacies would always be allocated more of the product than they needed, it said.
If pharmacists were unsure whether a prescription for pregabalin was intended for the treatment of pain, they should contact the prescriber, Pfizer said. “We appreciate this creates an administrative burden for pharmacy staff,” it said.
Pharmacists would no longer need to contact the prescriber once central prescribing guidance was created, the manufacturer said, as it would remove the potential for prescribers "unwittingly infringing" the patent.
Last month, PSNC said all pharmacists had to supply the branded product for pain-related conditions, even if the prescription was for the generic drug. Pfizer’s direct-to-pharmacy distribution model meant the manufacturer would be aware if pharmacists were ignoring the restrictions, PSNC warned.
All generic manufacturers had agreed to write to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to ensure they were aware that pregabalin could not be prescribed for pain, PSNC said. “A CCG or other party that promotes the supply of generic pregabalin for the patented indication risks facing legal action by Pfizer,” the negotiator added.