Wyeth's Pristiq Launch is a Bust; Sales Numbers Not Noted

Last Updated Jul 28, 2009 3:28 PM EDT

Sales of Wyeth's antidepressant Pristiq were conspicuous by their absence in the company's Q2 2009 earnings report. Wyeth said only that Pristiq had "higher sales" but gave no numbers. The company was hoping Pristiq, which launched last year, would replace its $3.5 billion-a-year blockbuster Effexor, which went off-patent in 2008. Effexor sales were down 25 percent to $772 million.

It's a far cry from what people were saying two years ago. Reuters:

Some analysts have said Pristiq could post annual sales of up to $2 billion, if approved.
That ain't happening. Leerink Swann estimates the drug earned sales of $67 million in 2008 and may get $260 million 2009. Those sales came after an ad campaign that compared depressed people to wind-up dolls (pictured).

There are three things wrong with Pristiq, according to observers. First, it's a blatant patent extender. Even the drug's developer -- Dr. Michael Liebowitz, the Columbia University psychiatrist who led the major Pristiq trials -- isn't impressed with it, noted Daniel Carlat:

Pristiq, he said, "is another SNRI -- it is not a revolutionary drug."
Second, it generated a lot of adverse event reports in a short period of time, per Phil Dawdy, including 17 successful suicides.

And, Dawdy adds, the drug has withdrawal symptoms that people don't like.

Here's a bulletin board for people taking Pristiq. As you can see, patients don't seem impressed.