Both Pfizer and Ranbaxy seem to be pleased by a decision by a court in Australia to preserve the US drug giant’s basic patent coverage on the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor while declaring another one invalid.

The Australian Full Federal Court in Victoria has upheld on appeal the exclusivity of its basic patent covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Lipitor. The ruling, which represents the culmination of a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Ranbaxy, preserves Lipitor’s patent coverage in the country to the end of May 2012.

The court found that a proposed Ranbaxy generic product would infringe Pfizer’s basic Lipitor patent, a decision that may be appealed. However the Indian drugmaker celebrated the verdict that a second patent covering the calcium salt of atorvastatin, which expires in September 2012, was ruled invalid due to “inutility, false suggestion and misrepresentation” by the court. Pfizer has the opportunity to appeal that ruling.

The New York-based behemoth said that the Australian decision will not impact the legion of ongoing Lipitor patent actions in other countriesadding that it will continue to “vigorously defend against challenges to its intellectual property”. Patents “provide the necessary incentive to invest in new and life-saving medicines”, the firm added.

Ranbaxy opens Yemen office
Meantime Ranbaxy has expanded its operations in the Middle East and set up a unit in Yemen. The firm has linked up with local group Pharma Ltd and says it has “has robust plans for the Yemen pharmaceutical market”.

Commenting on the new operation, Ranbaxy regional director Sanjeev Dani said the venture will help to bring down healthcare costs in Yemen “by providing value-added international quality products at affordable prices”. It will focus on launching anti-infectives, gastrointestinal drugs, cholesterol lowerers and anti-allergy treatments.