Back in the day scientists would work hard to discover the next breakthrough drug that can cure the incurable, and heal the untreatable.
When penicillin was discovered, it was able to cure infections that people previously died from.
Now Me-Too-Drugs are the trend.
Me-Too-Drugs refer to the drugs that come on the market and are very similar to an already existing drug. They are in the same class of medication, and often don’t have much, if any, benefit over the drug it is copying. Me Too Drugs essentially want to profit in a market that is already successful.
Examples of Me-Too-Drugs:
- Prilosec and Nexium,
- Claritin and Clarinex
- There are several that work for cholesterol the same way: lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and atorvastatin (Lipitor)
According to medterms.com, a company sponsored by webmd.com,
Me-too drug: A drug that is structurally very similar to already known drugs, with only minor differences. The term “me-too” carries a negative connotation. However, me-too products may create competition and drive prices down.
On the contrary, often the drug companies market and advertise a new product like crazy. When the patent expires then competitors can make generics and they will lose much of their profits. So they will seek new ways to make that money. This is the perfect time to introduce a “Me Too Drug”.
Some facts about “Me Too Drugs”
- “75 percent of all new drugs coming to market are “Me Too Drugs”, merely imitations of existing medications
- The “Me Too Drugs” don’t have to be proven to be better than the drug that is already out. They only have to be better than the placebo.
- The fact is that the older drug may not only be better, but there will be a generic available so it will be cheaper.
- In the past, the “Me Too Drugs” may have been improvements over the first generation of a drug, working more specifically or creating less side effects. However, now often the main motivation of “Me Too Drugs is profit.
- The ideal “Me Too Drug” will be only a slight modification of an existing drug, is approved by FDA just in time for the first drug’s patent to expire. The pharmaceutical companies will have studies that show an added benefit of this drug over the last, maybe one the, and will have a colorful marketing campaign.
- There is often a demand for the new drugs because they carry with them the idea that “new” is better, desirable, and more exciting, not to mention the hype created by the advertising campaigns.
When Prilosec’s patent expired in 2001, the drug maker was ready with Nexium, which has earned over $4 billion for its maker Astra Zeneca.
Claritin is a common antihistamine that most have heard about.
Antihistamines are supposed to help with symptoms of allergies, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc. The problem is that most antihistmines cause some degree of drowsiness. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a common over-the-counter antihistamine, is effective, but causes the most drowsiness. In fact, diphenhydramine is the same ingredient that is in most over-the-counter sleep medications, including Sominex, Tylenol PM. Chlropheniramine, found in Chlor-Trimeton and some other combination products also works well and causes less drowsiness than diphenhydramine.
And then there’s Claritin, with all the pretty blue boxes and tons of advertisements. It was advertised as the first “non-sedating” antihistamine. It is given at lower doses to keep it non-sedating. At higher doses it causes drowsiness as the other antihistamines. However, the tests are conducted only to prove that it works better than a sugar pill. It was never compared to other antihistamines. In fact, a recent continuing education that I read claimed that Claritin is “not effective”; It doesn’t work. Yet that is no reason to not advertise the heck out of it and make lots of money.
Now Claritin is available over-the-counter, and then the me-too drug “Clarinex” came out but is only available by prescription. Clarinex shows no advantage over Claritin. Clarinex costs $120 for 30 tablets, whereas Claritin costs $30 for 30 tablets.
Similarly, Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid are all now also available over-the-counter for approximately $30 per month. When these were prescription medications, they cost over $150 per month.
Why the difference in price? Mostly if something is prescription then there’s a chance that the insurance companies will pay for it and they will get the price they ask for. If it’s over-the-counter, patients generally don’t want to spend that kind of cash.