London: Indian drug-maker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd has launched the first generic version of AstraZeneca Plc’s heartburn and ulcer drug Nexium in Britain, adding to pressure on European sales of the top-selling medicine.
Ranbaxy said on Monday it was offering 20 mg and 40 mg tablets of esomeprazole -- the generic name for Nexium -- through pharmacies, retail and wholesale stores with immediate effect.
Nexium sales in Britain total around £60 million ($97 million) a year, making it a relatively small component of a franchise that raked in $5 billion in worldwide sales last year.
The drug is AstraZeneca’s third-largest seller behind heart drug Crestor and anti-psychotic Seroquel.
Nexium already faces cut-price generic competition in some other European markets, including Germany and Spain. The British-based company is fighting a legal case to protect it in France, the biggest European market for the product.
AstraZeneca’s tactics in defending Nexium from cheaper copies have been the subject of controversy in the past and the group’s offices were raided by European Union antitrust regulators in December in relation to the medicine.