It's one thing to get beaten in a head-to-head clinical trial by a rival drug, like Johnson & Johnson
But that's what happened to Wyeth this week, as researchers announced results of a clinical trial pitting Effexor against acupuncture to see which could relieve hot flashes in women after breast cancer treatment. In the small study (47 women participated), acupuncture was just as effective as Effexor in getting rid of the symptoms, but its effect lasted for 15 weeks after treatment, compared to just two weeks for Effexor. There were also fewer side effects associated with the acupuncture treatment than with Effexor. That's got to sting a little. (Sorry.)
Of course, there's a bit of a caveat here. In a "normal" study, the patients don't know whether they're receiving the drug or a placebo. In this one, well, it's kind of hard to disguise the fact that they're receiving acupuncture. Still, the results are impressive.
Nonetheless, the findings shouldn't hurt Wyeth's revenue too much. Effexor sales mostly stem from patients treating depression, not hot flashes. And besides, I imagine that very few doctors will send their patients out to the acupuncturist, rather than writing a prescription for Effexor, GlaxoSmithKline's
Wyeth also has bigger problems than getting beat in a head-to-head trial by a bunch of needles. Effexor XR -- its extended-release drug -- will eventually face generic competition, so Wyeth is desperately trying to switch patients to its me-too drug, Pristiq. Add to that Teva Pharmaceuticals'
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