On Monday, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the controversial prescription drug Abilify, entered into a three-month partnership with Medibio, an Australian-based company specializing in mental health diagnostics. It is a part of a strategy on Otsuka’s part to increase Abilify sales as the patent expires. If the partnership goes well, it could be the beginning of a long-term relationship.
For Medibio, the deal is an opportunity to demonstrate new technology designed to diagnose a range of mental illnesses, including depression and chronic stress – both of which are indications for Abilify. Medibio Jack Cosentino told the Australian media that the deal is a “validation” of his company’s work in the field of mental health. “It is a unique pairing and a great opportunity,” he said. Otsuka will be employing Medibio technology in order to determine whether or not patients are being given the correct dosage of Abilify.
The timing of this deal is significant. Patents on Abilify start expiring in January 2022, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved a number of generic versions, although none of these are yet available due to Otsuka’s market exclusivity.
Abilify also continues to be the cause of action in a growing number of lawsuits in the U.S. because of its alleged side effects, causing people to engage in uncontrollable, compulsive and self-destructive behaviors. Interestingly, the company issued label warnings to this effect in Europe and Canada long before it did so in the U.S., where marketing partner Bristol-Meyer Squibb made three-quarters of its sales. In addition, Abilify has been linked to a condition known as tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder which causes patients to experience uncontrollable tics and muscular spasms.
This is not the first time Otsuka has entered into such a partnership with a medical device manufacturer. Earlier, the drugmaker teamed up with Proteus, the manufacturer of a miniature medical sensor designed to be ingested with medication. The sensor then sends signals to a patch, worn by the patient, which relays the data to a mobile app for physician review. The purpose was to monitor patient compliance, determining if the patient was taking the prescribed dosage.
This new partnership ostensibly has a similar goal: to ensure that the medication is working properly. However, in the end, it’s primarily about the money. If everything goes according to plan, Otsuka is anticipating a significant increase in Abilify sales. Speaking with The Australian, Cosentino said, “This is a commercialization opportunity…this puts money in our pocket and allows us to do unique things.”