Pfizer has reacted angrily to the news that India's Ranbaxy Laboratories has launched a generic form of the drug major’s blockbuster cholesterol-lowerer Lipitor in Denmark.

Announcing the news, Ranbaxy chief executive Malvinder Singh said the introduction of atorvastatin in Denmark “is a significant milestone” and “heralds the beginning of the company's determined efforts to bring affordable atorvastatin to patients in Europe and other parts of the world." He added that the company’s copycat Lipitor “will bring significant and immediate cost benefits to the Danish healthcare system."on Monday the move marked the beginning of the company's efforts to bring affordable atorvastatin, as Lipitor is known generically, to patients in Europe and other parts of the world.

Denmark is the first western country to sell generic atorvastatin, though Ranbaxy’s version is already available in India and some other emerging markets, and Pfizer issued a statement saying that the decision to launch, “prior to the resolution of litigation on three Lipitor patents disregards normal Danish legal processes."

The firm went on to say that "Ranbaxy is fully aware that a court decision, which will determine whether or not Ranbaxy would be prohibited from selling a generic product before the patent litigation is concluded, is pending as a result of Pfizer's request for a preliminary injunction," and noted that a ruling on the latter is expected later this month.

The statement added that Pfizer is considering all its legal options to address the at-risk launch by Ranbaxy and if the Indian drugmaker should lose its patent challenge, it could be subject to financial penalties for lost sales of the drug suffered by the New York-based giant.

Pfizer can expect to see a lot more of Ranbaxy in courts around the world and the Gurgaon, Haryana-based firm was granted a favourable decision by a Canadian federal court in a case at the end of January which found Pfizer's Canadian atorvastatin patent to be invalid. However the US group has also scored a number of victories over Ranbaxy in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway and other countries last year, while a US appeals court also affirmed the validity of the basic patent on Lipitor, which runs until March 2010.