GlaxoSmithKline has settled its long-running legal dispute with Australia’s Biota Holdings which had claimed that the UK drugs giant had not done enough to promote the latter’s flu treatment Relenza.

GSK will pay A$20 million ($19.5 million) to settle the lawsuit which began in May 2004 after Biota said that it had failed to adequately promote Relenza (zanamivir). Then in March 2007 Biota amended a statement to the Supreme Court of Victoria saying that soon after Relenza's worldwide launch in 2000, GSK “withdrew its support for the product, adopting and implementing an ‘exit strategy’.”

The Melbourne-based firm had said GSK’s actions meant that the drug now holds only a small portion of the estimated $2 billion annual global market for antiviral flu drugs and way behind Roche’s Tamiflu (oseltamivir). In August last year, Biota went back to the court saying it was looking for damages in the range of A$564-A$704 million, up from a previous estimate of A$308-A$430 million.

Paying out just A$20 million is therefore a victory for GSK which added that it does not admit any liability in the matter as part of the settlement. Chief executive Andrew Witty, said the deal “is satisfactory for both companies” and GSK looks forward to working with Biota again.

Biota chairman John Grant said that in striking the agreement the board “had taken some hard decisions”. The postponement (in May) of the scheduled trial date “required us to review rigorously all aspects of the litigation in a new light,” he said, “including the impact of current and further possible delays and the growing scale and complexity” of the case.

The Australian firm’s chief executive Peter Cook looked forward to “re-establishing and strengthening Biota’s long-standing relationship with GSK”. He added that “all our stakeholders will welcome the redirection of our full resources to our strong and rapidly advancing development pipeline.”