Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Bienen: Lyrica popular overseas

Sales of the Northwestern-developed drug Lyrica are strong, although the drug is not yet available in the United States, University President Henry Bienen said Wednesday.

“The number of prescriptions being written is very rapid,” Bienen said. “That implies that doctors think it is very good, very efficacious. I think I saw figures where new prescriptions have doubled in a month or two months.”

Lyrica is currently marketed in 10 European countries, including Germany, France and England, Bienen said. He added that drug sales are “ramping up” much quicker than similar drugs, a testament to the drug’s popularity among physicians and patients.

Lyrica — generically called pregabalin — will expand to several other countries in Europe in the next few weeks, Bienen said.

Chemistry Prof. Richard Silverman developed the drug in 1989 to be used as a treatment for neuropathic pain associated with diabetes, herpes and epileptic seizures.

NU receives 6 percent of the drug’s revenue in quarterly checks from Pfizer, the company that markets the drug. Last month NU received the second check, which Bienen said was four times larger than the first check. Citing agreements with Pfizer, Bienen declined to provide specific numbers.

“It may well be approved in other countries, but they still might be negotiating price,” Bienen said. “Outside of America is about 40 percent of the market.”

Indrani Mukharji, executive director of the Technology Transfer Program, also emphasized the drug’s strong European sales.

There is a 90-day lag when the checks are received, meaning the checks do not represent current sales. Bienen said money generated from the drug’s sales might be used to support the university’s endowment and a new music building.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for marketing in the United States on Dec. 31, 2004. Pfizer is still waiting for the Drug Enforcement Administration to classify the drug before it can go on sale in this country.

“It’s the DEA that works out with Pfizer the labeling, and that matters a lot to Pfizer, as it should,” Bienen said. “It effects how doctors can prescribe the drug and what kind of advertising you can do. The drug is approved but the labeling isn’t fixed in the U.S.”

A DEA spokeswoman declined to set a time line for the drugs’ classification, but said the process is ongoing.

Projections and models lead Bienen to believe the next check will be twice as large as the most recent one, he said.

“(In Europe) the drug is selling very well. It’s ramped up very quickly,” Bienen said. “It’s disappointing that it’s not on the market in the U.S. or Japan yet, and when that happens, of course it will affect the sales highly. These are not one-time sales, this is a maintenance drug. Once you’ve taken it, you will hopefully continue to take it. It is very efficacious for a lot of problems.”

Reach Jason B. Gumer at [email protected].

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Bienen: Lyrica popular overseas