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Pfizer reinforces Lyrica prescribing restrictions

Pfizer says it wishes it "had been able to explain the patent situation earlier and better"

The manufacturer has published an open letter to pharmacists defending its pregabalin patent for the treatment of pain

Pfizer has reaffirmed its decision to prevent the generic version of Lyrica being prescribed for pain.

Retaining the patent for pain treatment until June 2017 had not been intended to cause confusion or add to pharmacists’ workload, the manufacturer said in an open letter to pharmacists and other clinicians sent to C+D today (June 10).

Numark raised concerns in February that pharmacists who ran out of Lyrica would face a “temptation” to dispense the generic alternative pregabalin - which can be used to treat epilepsy - for pain-related prescriptions, and Pfizer said it hoped its letter would bring “further clarity and reassurances” for the sector.

“We wish we had been able to explain this patent situation earlier and better. This is new territory for all of us and there was no system or policy in place to deal with it,” the manufacturer's UK medical directors Berkeley Phillips and Seema Patel said in the letter.

The “much needed” guidance issued by NHS England to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in February had clarified that all clinical decisions to treat pain with pregabalin should result in a prescription for Lyrica, despite its general patent expiring in July 2014,  the medical directors said.

Using EPS to enforce restrictions

Pfizer had been working with software providers over the past year to see if the electronic prescription system (EPS) could be used to enforce the prescribing restrictions, they said.

Lyrica had originally been developed to treat epilepsy and its benefits as a pain treatment had only been discovered “as a result of our investment in this additional research programme”, the medical directors explained. “It is for this discovery that Pfizer was granted the patent protecting its use for pain,” they added.

Although the generic version could still be prescribed for epilepsy and generalised anxiety disorder, its use as a pain treatment was prohibited until June 2017 “subject to ongoing legal proceedings with generics companies”, Pfizer stressed.

Almost 5 million Lyrica products and only 600 generic pregabalin products were dispensed in the community in 2014, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).However, HSCIC was unable to specific which conditions the products were prescribed for.

View the full letter here.

Have you found it hard to adhere to the Lyrica prescribing restrictions? 

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N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I'm still waiting for the answer ..... How does Pfizer find out what was dispensed ?? and for what condition ?? Anyone ?? Editor ??

Dave Downham, Manager

Pfizer should open a bakery then they could make as much cake as they want and eat most of it themselves while opening selling a a small, rationed, inadequate amnount of bread to their "customers". Can't wait to see the court case of Pfizer v Boots. Would love to be the lawyer on that one.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Absolutely. The lawyer would rake it in during a case with no end in sight.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Is this the same Pfizer that cost the NHS an extra £44 Million a year (the cost of 1,800 nurses) with its “divestment” of Epanutin to Flynn Pharma just a few years ago? *(source: The Daily Telegraph, 12th October 2012).

The difference between pharmacists and Pfizer is quite subtle. Our first consideration is the patient, their's is the patent

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Can anyone throw some light on the following --- How will Pfizer find out which patient got what product?? What if the patient said Epilepsy, are we still supposed to do extra work to make sure it was epilepsy and not pain? Will Pfizer pay us for this? Are they going to call the patient?? Before the patent expired they had restricted supply. So how will they know which Pharmacy has ordered what quantity? SOme clarification would be great.

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