Copaxone Three Times a Week: Better, or Just More Expensive?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Yes, three times a week is more convenient than once a day . . . but it will cost you more in the end and here’s why. Copaxone 20 mg daily injection has been one of the major medications used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). What you should know is that the patent for Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) is set to expire this month (May 2014) but Teva is fighting that. You see, two companies would like to make a generic Copaxone (glatiramer) which will be cheaper for you. Why does Teva care? Well, Copaxone brings in $3.2 billion in annual sales in the United States and accounts for more than half of Teva’s profit.

Surprise! Now we roll out the 40 mg three times a week Copaxone dose. Yes, there is one study published in June 2013 which found that Glatiramer (Copaxone) 40 mg injection three times a week is a safe and effective treatment for relapsing-remitting MS compared to placebo. This “newer” 40 mg Copaxone injection doesn’t come off patent until 2015. Brilliant strategy by Teva. It is more convenient for sure, but a switch for patients from the 20-milligram dose that is slated to come off patent protection to a 40-milligram dose means we pay brand name prices until then—instead of a cheaper generic equivalent of 20 mg Copaxone injections.

Dr O.

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