A judge has decided not to stop community pharmacists from dispensing generic atorvastatin from stock they already hold, following an injunction issued against the sale and supply of the product, Pfizer has said. Pfizer obtained an order from the High Court of Justice restraining the sale and supply of generic atorvastatin on June 20.
That order states that until a further hearing scheduled for July 11, Phoenix Healthcare, AAH Pharmaceuticals and Teva UK must not advertise, offer for sale, sell or supply atorvastatin, other than that supplied by Pfizer, or by Phoenix or AAH to fulfil a contractual obligation incurred before the injunction was issued, before July 11.
At a hearing on June 27, Pfizer reported that a further short-line wholesaler had been added to the injunction, but that the judge "had not at this point prohibited dispensing pharmacies (including Rowlands) from continuing to dispense those stocks of generic atorvastatin they currently hold".
But the manufacturer warned this did not affect its right to seek injunctions or "other relief" against pharmacies at a later date.
Teva launched its own atorvastatin on Monday, June 20, but Pfizer said that "any distribution or sale in the UK" of generic atorvastatin was "unauthorised" and that it would "take appropriate legal action to prevent the violation of its valid patent rights".
However, Teva said: "Our view is that the patent protection in place for Lipitor is invalid; and we intend to win the case and resume supply as soon as possible." Following the latest hearing, Teva added: "We feel strongly that we are acting in the interests of a sustainable pharmacy industry, and in the event that further action is taken in this case against an individual pharmacist, Teva will stand by our customers."
Rowlands Pharmacy MD Kenny Black told C+D he was unable to make any comment on the situation. Lloydspharmacy had not commented by the time C+D went to press and both Boots and the Co-operative Pharmacy said they had no supplies of generic atorvastatin.
Advice from the NPA's CEO Mike Holden
"We have advised our members that, in the current circumstances, they should think carefully about the risks of getting caught up in a patent dispute. "Community pharmacists have purchased stock in good faith, and it would be entirely wrong for them to face any kind of legal proceedings. "We are seeking a clarification from Pfizer that they will not pursue pharmacies [and they] have been prepared to enter into a dialogue with us at a senior level to seek resolution. We have also written to AAH, Phoenix and Teva to press for a satisfactory resolution for NPA members." Mike Holden, chief executive, NPA