US ruling may cost Pfizer as much as $3 billion
Two weeks ago, a district court in Virginia found a pharmaceutical patent invalid, potentially opening the door for cheaper generic versions 18 months sooner than expected.
The patent is owned by Pfizer Inc. and used in their blockbuster painkiller Celebrex – a pill used widely in the US for the treatment of e.g. arthritis and acute pain.
The whole case started, when Pfizer was granted a reissue patent, intended to prolong the protection of the active ingredient in Celebrex until December 2015. Based on the newly granted reissue patent, Pfizer sued a number of pharmaceutical competitors, who had all applied for FDA-approval of their generic copies of Celebrex. The case went to trial, and the Pfizer-patent was found invalid, enabling the competitors to start selling their products much sooner than anticipated, as the patent now expires in May 2014 instead of 2015.
Pfizer, still trying to make up for the loss of $7 billion in annual sales since competitors legally started producing copies of the cholesterol drug Lipitor in 2011, now risks losing around $3 billion more, if the court’s decision on Celebrex stands.
Pfizer has declared that it will “pursue all available remedies”, including appealing the ruling immediately.
If the Virginia verdict stands, competitors to Pfizer will have over a year extra to start their productions, which – according to analysts – will result in Pfizer losing $1 billion this year and $2 billion next year – a total loss of $3 billion.
A loss of $3 billion is enough to give most people a head ache – maybe Pfizer should pop a few of their own pills while waiting for the appeal.