Thursday, December 22, 2005

Modafinil, Attenace, CME, and Drug Marketing

There is a reasonably good, brief CME program at Medscape (link, free registration required), about a film-coated version of modafinil.  Modafinil is already available as a scored tablet, under the brand name Provigil.  It is used for treatment of narcolepsy, among other things.  However, modafinil is nearing the end of its patent life.  That means that it is time for the maker, Cephalon, to get a new indication.  If they can get it, then they get a little extension on the patent.

I wrote about this earlier this year, back in January.  At the time, it was becoming common knowledge that Cephalon was doing studies on a new formulation of modafinil, Attenace.  This is something that I think is fine, although some people take issue with the idea of giving patent extensions.  

What interests me now, is that a CME program has emerged.  What does this mean to industry watchers?  This is something I cannot prove but it really seems to be the case.  CME programs can, in some cases, serve as free advertising for a new product.  Based upon this my speculation, I would say that Cephalon is now confident that they are going to get final approval for Attenace, and that it will be on the market soon.  I suspect that drug companies have learned how to work the system so as to get these articles presented as CME programs, just before the new product hits the market.

If this is true, it is important for physicians to be aware of this, and to be a little bit skeptical of these presentations.  

Note that I explicitly am not implying that I am skeptical of the safety or potential usefulness of Attenace. To the contrary, I actually am looking forward to having it available.  But I do think it is important to keep in mind the possibility that pharmaceutical companies are learning how to manipulate the medical education system.