UPDATE 1-Teva gets U.S. nod to market Lexapro generic

Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:38pm EDT

March 14 (Reuters) - Drug regulators gave the nod on Wednesday to Teva Pharmaceuticals to sell a cheaper copycat version of Lexapro antidepressant tablets in the United States.

The medicine, known generically as escitalopram, was originally made by Forest Laboratories Inc. It treats depression and general anxiety disorder in adults.

Symptoms of depression, such as loss of interest in usual activities or insomnia, can interfere with people's ability to work, sleep and go about their daily lives, the Food and Drug Administration said. Episodes often occur throughout a lifetime.

"This medication is widely used by people who must manage their condition over time, so it is important to have affordable treatment options," Janet Woodcock, the head of the FDA's drugs center, said in a statement.

Lexapro was Forest Labs' biggest seller last year, generating U.S. sales of $2.9 billion, according to IMS Health. Analysts expect the company to lose about a quarter of its revenue now that generic versions of the drug are available.

Teva now has 180 days of market exclusivity for Lexapro, which means FDA cannot approve another version of the drug during this period.

Mylan Inc announced in February that it reached an agreement with Forest to sell an "authorized generic" version of Lexapro in the United States.

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