An appeals court in the UK has upheld a patent covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Pfizer’s top-selling cholesterol-lowerer Lipitor, blocking approval of copycat versions of the drug until 2011.

The verdict continues as run of successes in the courts as Pfizer battles to protect Lipitor from a challenge by Indian drugmaker Ranbaxy. The appeals court decision in the UK follows victories for Pfizer in Finland, Spain, Norway, Romania and Peru, as well as the USA.

Ranbaxy was able to invalidate one of the patents of Lipitor held by Pfizer, but the crucial substance patent (No 247 633) was backed by the court.

Ranbaxy is among those generic companies that adopt a high-risk, high-reward strategy in the sector, spending on litigation in the hope of winning first-to-market advantage for its generic products. But its hopes of winning an early entry into the atorvastatin market – which topped $12 billion last year - must be receding.

In a statement, the Indian company said it “is evaluating this decision and will decide on its course of action shortly.”