The forthcoming patent expiry on its blockbuster Flomax in the USA is no cause to press the panic button, according to Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim, which has posted another strong set of annual results.

Turnover in 2007 rose 8.8% in local currency (or up 3.6% in euro terms) to just shy of 11 billion euros, while operating income slipped 1.9% to 2.10 billion euros. That slight decline came as little surprise given the mauling that sales of the anti-inflammatory drug Mobic (meloxicam) received, as the impact of generic competition in the USA made itself felt.

The latter led to a shortfall of 340 million euros in sales and the results were impacted by the strength of the euro against the dollar and the Japanese yen. However the atmosphere was highly positive at the firm’s annual press conference in Ingelheim given the strong performance put in by Boehringer’s three blockbusters.

The best-selling of those once again was Spiriva (tiotropium bromide) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which brought in just under 1.8 billion euros, a 35% increase on 2006. The blood pressure drug Micardis (telmisartan) saw sales of 1.12 billion euros, up 23%, while Flomax/Alna, for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, rose 19% to 1.02 billion euros.

All well and good but a blot on the landscape is that 2009 will be the last full-year of patent exclusivity for Flomax. Asked by PharmaTimes World News how Boehringer intends to deal with this problem, chairman Alessandro Banchi said that profits will clearly be lower but being a privately-owned firm, the firm’s board, which is not obsessed with double-digit growth every quarter, is not unduly concerned, as its other products will be able to make up most of the shortfall.

Specifically, Marbod Muff, board member in charge of finance, told PharmaTimes World News that in 2009-2012, the US patent expiry on Flomax, as well as the loss of protection in some smaller markets on Sifrol/Mirapex (pramipexole) for Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome, will lead to a shortfall in earnings of around 1 billion euros. However this will be offset by 2.5 billion euros generated by its lead products which the firm hopes may include Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), its new oral direct thrombin inhibitor.

Pradaxa has just been approved in Europe for the prevention of venous thromboembolic events in adults who have undergone elective total hip or total knee replacement surgery. The company says that it plans to launch the product in Germany and UK in the next week or so.

However Andreas Barner, Boehringer’s head of research, told PharmaTimes World News that the real potential for Pradaxa lies in other indications, notably the prevention of stroke. By Kevin Grogan in Ingelheim

We will have much more from the Boehringer meeting tomorrow