* Novartis says FDA approves Prevacid 24HR for OTC sales
* Drug expected to be available over-the-counter in 2009
ZURICH, May 14 Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG
NOVN.VX said on Thursday its gastric acid reflux drug Prevacid
24HR is likely to be available to buy over the counter this year
after it got backing from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA has approved Prevacid 24HR as the first
over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor for the treatment of
frequent heartburn since 2003, Novartis said in a statement.
"This approval will provide greater convenience and broader
access to an effective treatment option to the 50 million
Americans suffering from frequent heartburn," the firm said.
Frequent heartburn, which can cause a burning sensation in
the chest and in the throat, a bitter taste in the mouth and
asthma-like symptoms, is defined as heartburn that happens at
least twice a week.
The prescription medicine Prevacid is one of the top five
prescription brands in the U.S. in terms of total prescription
dollar sales and it had annual sales of $3.37 billion in the
U.S. in 2008.
Novartis has licensed the Prevacid trademark and certain
other intellectual property rights for OTC development and
commercialization from Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America,
(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Greg Mahlich)