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Teva and Sun lose latest legal battle over Protonix

World News | July 19, 2010


Kevin Grogan

A US court has denied a motion brought by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries of Israel and India’s Sun Pharmaceutical Industries to reverse an earlier decision of patent infringement on Pfizer/Nycomed’s gastrointestinal drug Protonix.

The district court in New Jersey will not overturn a ruling laid out in April on the validity of a patent on Protonix (pantoprazole) held by Pfizer’s Wyeth unit. The court has not yet issued its underlying reasoning for the decision and both Teva and Sun said they continue to believe the patent is invalid and unenforceable and they intend to pursue “all available legal remedies including appeals”.

The announcement saw Teva’s shares fall to their lowest levels since March last year and Sun’s stock also suffered. However both generic drugmakers noted that they have not been prohibited from selling their copycat versions of Protonix before the expiry of Pfizer's marketing exclusivity in January 2011, as other claims concerning the validity of the patents, including patent misuse, are still pending.

Hakan Bjorklund, Nycomed chief executive, said "we are very pleased that the court recognised and acknowledged that our patent is valid", adding that patents "represent the foundation of pharmaceutical innovation”. The Swiss firm went on to say it "will continue to vigorously pursue its damage claims", noting that in 2007, before Teva and Sun started their at-risk launches of generic Protonix, sales of the drug reached $1.9 billion, "and have since then decreased considerably".

Nycomed and Wyeth filed their patent infringement lawsuit against Teva and Sun in May 2004 and if the pantoprazole owners win all the cases, analysts have suggested that the latter two companies could indeed be hit hard financially. Observers believe that the damages could amount to $1-$2 billion.

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