GlaxoSmithKline has received a boost with the news that the threat of generic competition to its fish oil heart drug Lovaza appears to have been put back.

The drugs major says that partner Pronova BioPharma Norge,  which owns the patents for Lovaza (omega-3-acid ethyl esters), has entered into an agreement with Canada's Apotex to settle their patent litigation in the USA related to the treatment. GSK holds the marketing rights in the USA and Puerto Rico and sales in 2010 reached £530 million.

The settlement grants Apotex a license to enter the US market with a generic version of Lovaza in the first quarter of 2015, or earlier depending on certain circumstances. Other terms of the settlement are confidential. GSK noted that Pronova is currently still involved in lawsuits with Teva and Par Pharmaceutical.

Analysts believe that a settlement with the latter firms could be in the offing and allay fears that a copycat version of Lovaza would hit the market as early as 2013.

Abbott to pay damages to GSK over Norvir

Meantime, a jury in Oakland, California has decreed that Abbott Laboratories must pay GSK $3.4 million for breaching a license agreement relating to the HIV treatment Norvir (ritonavir), but has stated that the former did not violate antitrust laws.

The decision follows a long-running case which saw GSK sue Abbott in November 2007 over the US firm's to increase the price of Norvir, a key component AIDS drug cocktails, by 400% in 2003. GSK had claimed the price rise was a bid to create a monopoly for Abbott's own HIV combination treatment Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), which remained at the same price. The cost of GSK's Lexiva/Telzir (fosamprenavir), which is used in combination with Abbott's treatment, subsequently shot up.

Abbott denied the allegations, saying it raised the price in order to cover revenues lost by patients taking fewer doses of Norvir. Abbott may appeal but the damages awarded are considerably less than the $571 million GSK was seeking.