Thursday, May 14, 2009

Antidepressants: Brand Name or Generic?

For many antidepressants, the issue of brand-name versus generic has no practical significance. Elavil was first marketed almost a half century ago, and its patent has long expired. It lives on, however, but as generic amitriptyline. Today, only a few antidepressants are still fully protected by patents, namely, Cymbalta (2010), Lexapro (2012), and Pristiq (2022) for major depressive disorder (MDD); and Seroquel (2011) and Symbyax (2017) for bipolar depression.

The issue of brand-name versus generic, however, is far more complex than merely listing patent expiration dates. Patents can be extended, challenged, and infringed on; financial considerations are enormous; and patient care issues are often of central importance. To place antidepressants in proper perspective, it is first necessary to provide some general background about patents and drug regulation.