It was mixed news for US group Gilead yesterday, which suffered a setback after US regulators rejected four patents for the HIV drug Viread, but posted a strong set of results for the fourth quarter.

Last year, the Public Patent Foundation claimed that patents protecting Viread (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) – a component of the Truvada and Atripla single pill combinations for HIV – are actually based on previous scientific knowledge, and so argued that protection should not have been granted in the first place.

And it seems the US Patent and Trademark Office agrees, concluding that each of the four Gilead Sciences patents are indeed undeserved. “We are extremely pleased that the Patent Office has agreed with us that Gilead's TDF patents are invalid," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director. "This means that we are now well on the way towards ending the harm being caused to the public by Gilead's use of the patents to prevent anyone else from offering [the drug] to HIV/AIDS patients in the US,” he added.

However, the decision is not final, and Gilead remains confident that Viread’s patents will be upheld, according to Reuters.

Solid results
Meanwhile, the group posted a 22% rise in fourth-quarter revenues to $1.09 billion, largely on strong sales of its HIV franchise, up 35% to $864.2 million, and the hepatitis B drug Hepsera (adefovir dipivoxil), which grew 17% to $76.9 million.

Adjusted net income for the fourth quarter of came in at $426.8 million, or $0.44 per diluted share, compared to $397.7 million, or $0.41 per diluted share, for the year-ago period.

Full-year revenues rocketed 40% to $4.23 billion, again on the back of Gilead's growing HIV product franchise, which soared 48% to $3.14 billion, and a 31% rise in sales of Hepsera to $302.7 million. This helped drive a 31% increase in full year adjusted net income to $1.7 billion.