Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has been given a green light to sell a generic version of Novartis’ iron overload treatment Desferal in the USA.

Desferal (deferoxamine mesylate) is sold by Novartis for the acute treatment of iron intoxication and chronic iron overload, a consequence of having to undergo multiple blood transfusions, and had US sales of around $43 million last year.

It tends to be used in patients suffering from thalassaemia, sickle cell disease and myelodysplastic syndromes, all of which are treated using blood transfusions.

Worldwide sales of Desferal are only around $100 million a year, and Novartis has already protected its franchise from the onset of generic competition with the development of a new iron chelator, Exjade (deferasirox), which can be give orally rather than by injection.

Exjade was approved in the USA last November, and has been filed in most major markets around the world. Novartis predicts that peak sales of the new drug could reach upwards of $650 million.

A generic form of Desferal is already sold in the USA by Hospira, having been approved in May 2004, but has seen its sales decline in the face of competition from Exjade.