Merck & Co has been unable to persuade the US Supreme Court to cast its eye over the company’s lawsuit with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, brought by the latter in an attempt to clear the way for approval of a generic version of Merck’s blockbuster osteoporosis treatment, Fosamax (alendronate).

The ruling, which was widely expected, means that Merck has exhausted all legal options in its bid to maintain patent protection for Fosamax out to 2018. Generics should now be able to reach the US market in February 2008, as ruled by a US appeals court earlier this year [[31/01/05a]]. That verdict invalidated one of Merck’s patents on Fosamax and overturned a prior ruling in Merck’s favour [[01/09/03e]].

Analysts at Bear Sterns said that Fosamax, which is expected to achieve worldwide revenues of $2.6 billion dollars in 2005, would see US sales of $1.9 billion in 2007, but then plunge to $400 million in 2008 and $100 million in 2009 as generic competition takes hold.

Merck has also lost a number of lawsuits in Europe regarding Fosamax’ patent estate, and now looks set to see generic competition to the drug there from 2007 [[21/07/04e]] [[07/11/03a]]. It is terrible news for a company that has already witnessed the complete removal of sales for its COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx (rofecoxib), and is facing heavy litigation charges on the back of this, as well as looming patent expiries for other big drugs.