Sweden-based Pharmacia AB has received approval of itsrecombinant human growth hormone, Genotropin, fromthe FDA and the drug is expected to be on the U.S.market by the first half of 1996.

Pharmacia officials said Monday Genotropin will be"price competitive" and they observed that their proposedmerger with The Upjohn Co., of Kalamazoo, Mich.,should help efforts in capturing market share fromGenentech Inc., of South San Francisco, and Eli Lilly andCo., of Indianapolis.

Genentech's Protropin and Nutropin and Lilly'sHumatrope are the only other growth hormone drugs onthe U.S. market. Genentech controls 75 percent of theapproximately $350 million in annual sales of growthhormone in the U.S.

Denmark-based Novo Nordisk A/S and BiotechnologyGeneral Corp., of Iselin, N.J., also received FDAapproval this year for their growth hormones, butGenentech stopped them from entering the U.S. marketby alleging patent infringement in federal court litigation.

A judge in New York has issued preliminary injunctionsagainst sales of Novo Nordisk's Norditropin andBiotechnology General's Bio-Tropin pending theoutcome of the patent disputes, which could take years toresolve. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 14, 1995, and June30, 1995, p. 1.)

Pharmacia will face no such challenge based on 10-yearco-development and co-marketing deal in whichGenentech licensed its growth hormone patents to theSwedish pharmaceutical firm in 1985. The collaborationgave Pharmacia rights to growth hormone sales outsidethe U.S. in return for paying royalties to Genentech.

In addition, the agreement provided that beginning inNovember 1995, Pharmacia can market its own growthhormone, Genotropin, in the U.S. and Canada whileGenentech can sell its products in certain Europeancountries.

Debra Clouse, Pharmacia's director of public relations atthe company's U.S. headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, saidGenotropin is sold in 100 countries with annual revenuesof $370 million. The drug was approved in the U.S. fortreatment of children who are short because of inadequatenatural secretion of growth hormone.

In addition to being price competitive with Genentechand Lilly, Clouse said Pharmacia has a drug deliverymethod and patient educational program that also shouldboost sales.

Last week, Pharmacia and Upjohn agreed to merge in astock swap that would form a new company, calledPharmacia & Upjohn Inc., valued at about $13 billion.Shareholders are expected to vote on the consolidation inNovember. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 22, 1995, p. 1.)

Pharmacia's stock (NASDAQ:PHARY) closed Mondayat $27.06, down 31 cents. Upjohn (NYSE:UPJ) ended theday at $42, a dip of 25 cents. Genentech (NYSE:GNE)was up 25 cents to $47.50. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.