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Wednesday, Oct 13, 2004

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Micro Labs dumps rofecoxib drug

D.S. Madhumathi

Bangalore , Oct. 12

THE Merck action has started hurting. Micro Labs has stopped production of its drug Rufica.

The drug based on patent holder Merck's rofecoxib molecule was a Rs 5-crore brand for the company and figured among the top five domestic brands. With a Drug Controller General of India ban looming large on rofexocib drugs, Micro is among the early manufacturers to plug its production.

"We have lost a key brand," Mr G. Jayaraj, VP - Products, at Bangalore-based Micro Labs told Business Line. Micro's Goa plant, he said, had manufactured around 30 lakh tablets per month since its launch 2001.

On September 30, Merck pulled its $2.5-billion blockbuster brand Vioxx off the markets globally, explaining that the drug was found to increase cardiovascular risks in patients over an 18-month watch.

Neither the US FDA nor the Indian regulator has banned it so far.

Micro Labs, the biggest seller of rofecoxib in Karnataka, is one of the many players in this nearly Rs 100-crore space in the country. The majors in the league have been Ranbaxy, Torrent and Nicholas Piramal.

Rofecoxib is a molecule in the cox-2 inhibitor family of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs, which do not produce gastro-intestinal side effect, include etoricoxib, celecoxib, valdecoxib and parecoxib.

Soon after Merck's move, Micro, along with a few majors such as Ranbaxy, had advised doctors to cut the rofecoxib regimen from two to three months to just a week.

The Rs 450-crore Micro will now look at other options, both to fill the pain relief segment and to meet its targets, Mr Jayaraj said.

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