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Pfizer lifted by Lipitor patent victory

Published on 20/12/05 at 04:54pm

Shares in Pfizer have risen after it saw off a patent challenge to Lipitor, its biggest selling drug.

Lipitor generates around $12 billion a year in sales and is the world's biggest selling drug and Pfizer has now secured patent protection until 2011 after defeating Indian generic competitor Ranbaxy in the US trial.

The federal judge upheld Pfizer's two main patents covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Lipitor, though Ranbaxy vowed to appeal against the decision.

"We remain undeterred in our resolve on this issue and we will press our case in the US court of appeals for the federal circuit," said Malvinder Singh, president and executive director of Ranbaxy Laboratories.

Lipitor is the jewel in Pfizer's portfolio, representing around 15% of its pharmaceutical sales, and defeat by Ranbaxy would have severely dented the company's future growth.

The company is already facing $14 billion worth of lost sales over the next few years from patent expiries on other key drugs, including Norvasc (Istin in the UK) and Zoloft (Lustral in the UK), and the loss of the Lipitor patent would have added to these problems.

Commenting on the court's decision Pfizer chief executive Hank McKinnell said: "Today marks a major victory for medical innovators and the patients who depend on them for new therapies."

Pfizer's share price rose 12% following the ruling but the company's earnings are expected to fall this year, undermining investor confidence.

Along with patent expiries, Pfizer has also suffered from stagnating markets, plummeting sales of Celebrex owing to safety concerns, and a slowdown in US sales of Lipitor, which grew just 1% between July and September this year.

The ruling represents the second major patent victory for a branded drug company this year, after Lilly saw off a similar generic challenge to its schizophrenia drug Zyprexa.

Closely watched by industry executives, a ruling against Pfizer would have hindered the fortunes of rival branded cholesterol treatments like AstraZeneca's Crestor and triggered a price war in the crucial US market.

Sanofi-Aventis, meanwhile, will hope that Pfizer's victory augurs well for its own court battle over its top-selling bloodthinner Plavix, which is facing a challenge from generic manufacturers Dr Reddys Laboratories and Apotex.

Pfizer's victory is bad news for other generic manufacturers, as the overturning of Lipitor's US patent could have been the catalyst for further generic victories.

It also represents the second defeat for Ranbaxy, which also failed to overturn Lipitor's UK patent earlier this year.

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Pfizer and Sanofi battle challenges on patents 

Thursday , September 08, 2005



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