Pfizer patent blow after UK ruling on €4.4bn pain drug

Pfizer patent blow after UK ruling on €4.4bn pain drug

By Ben Hirschler

Pfizer has lost the final round in a long-running patent battle in the UK after the country’s highest court ruled against it in a case involving its €4.4bn-a-year pain drug Lyrica.

The Supreme Court decision is a blow for the US drugmaker — which had sought to affirm a secondary medical use patent for the product — and a win for generic drug companies Actavis, now renamed Allergan, and Mylan.

Lyrica, known generically as pregabalin, was originally developed for epilepsy but further research showed it could also help patients suffering from neuropathic pain, which soon became its main market.

In a bid to protect this lucrative section of the market, Pfizer secured a secondary patent, valid beyond the life of the original one. The Supreme Court, however, ruled the secondary patent claims relevant to neuropathic pain were invalid.

For Pfizer, the legal fight had become a point of principle, following years of battles in lower courts, since its key secondary pain patent has now expired in Europe.

Pfizer said it was disappointed by the ruling and the decision would have a significant impact on incentives for innovation in public health. “The period that a medicine is under patent is a critical phase in its lifecycle that fuels innovation — as science evolves and knowledge grows, patients increasingly benefit from ongoing research into new uses for existing medicines,” the company said.

“As situations such as these are expected to become more common, it’s important for patients that pharmaceutical companies are able to protect patents, including second medical-use patents,” it said.

The expiry of the basic patent on Lyrica five years ago had allowed generic drugmakers to launch cut-price versions of Pfizer’s medicine, which carried a ‘skinny label’ limiting their use to epilepsy and general anxiety disorder. Pfizer sued, arguing it was inevitable that the copycat versions would be dispensed for pain as well as other conditions. The US drugs company took the case to the Supreme Court after an appeal in the case was rejected in 2016.

In the US, by contrast, Pfizer is only expecting generic competition to Lyrica in 2019. Pfizer is one of Cork’s largest employers, and may soon employ 1,000 in the area. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases.

Pfizer said it was too early for it to determine or comment on any possible next steps. Its shares have gained about 27% in the past year, valuing the company at $251.5bn (€223.4bn).

- Reuters. Additional reporting Irish Examiner

More on this topic

At Davos, US and EU increase invective to clash over cars and digital taxesAt Davos, US and EU increase invective to clash over cars and digital taxes

S&P: Election may spur more spending on 'floundering' health serviceS&P: Election may spur more spending on 'floundering' health service

''Financial feel good'' remains absent despite consumer uplift''Financial feel good'' remains absent despite consumer uplift

Record car imports impact on salesRecord car imports impact on sales

More in this Section

UK's competition watchdog set to probe Takeaway’s £6bn Just Eat takeoverUK's competition watchdog set to probe Takeaway’s £6bn Just Eat takeover

At Davos, US and EU increase invective to clash over cars and digital taxesAt Davos, US and EU increase invective to clash over cars and digital taxes

Merkel seeks unity of purpose over climate changeMerkel seeks unity of purpose over climate change

Head & Shoulders and Olay boost sales at Procter & GambleHead & Shoulders and Olay boost sales at Procter & Gamble


Lifestyle

After years of saying no, Patrick Stewart tells Georgia Humphreys why he finally agreed to reprise his role as Jean-Luc PicardPatrick Stewart on boldly returning for Star Trek Picard

Cork teenager Jessie Griffin is launching a new comic-book series about her own life. She tells Donal O’Keeffe about her work as a comic artist, living with Asperger’s, and her life-changing time with the Cork Life CentrePicture perfect way of sharing Jessie’s story

Sorting out Cork people for agesAsk Audrey: The only way to improve air quality in Douglas is to move it upwind from Passage West

The Lighthouse is being hailed as one of the best — and strangest — films of the year. Its director tells Esther McCarthy about casting Robert Pattinson, and why he used 100-year-old lensesGoing against the grain: Robert Eggers talks about making his latest film The Lighthouse

More From The Irish Examiner