After a long, complicated path, Alzheimers prescription Namenda finally has a generic in the form of memantine. Memantine is now in pharmacies—though for a while it looked like there might never be a generic Namenda at all.
Why the discontinuation? There were no safety or effectiveness concerns with the regular-release Namenda—but the patent expired in mid-2015, making a generic possible. The extended-release Namenda XR is still protected until 2025. This meant Forest could keep making more from the brand name drug, without a generic alternative available.
Now, to be fair, it’s an easy switch from Namenda to Namenda XR, and the two brands cost about the same per month. Namenda XR may also be more convenient, since it’s only taken once per day, instead of twice like regular Namenda.
However, if Forest had gotten their way, discontinuing Namenda would have meant no generic for up to 10 more years. With Namenda off the market in fall of 2014, no one would have been taking the regular-release version by the time the patent expired in 2015. So, no motivation for generic manufacturers to make memantine.
Now the good news: the New York attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit, claiming that this was an anticompetitive move on Forest’s part, and Forest was forced to continue offering Namenda as well as Namenda XR.
The end result: generic memantine is now in pharmacies for as little as half the cost of brand-name Namenda. This is a great win for patients against practices like “product hopping” that can keep drug prices high.