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Battle rages over Pfizer's Lipitor patent

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

2 Comments

Gurvinder Bhatia, Superintendent Pharmacist

What a shambles....those of us sitting on 100's of boxes are in a dilemma. Should we dispense or not to dispense our shiny new generic boxes of atorva? The NPA has initially said no don't dispense, the Judge has said it's not unlawful to dispense, Pfizer says it will pursue those that dispense the drug, the MHRA say the product is licensed and has no safety concerns, the NPA advice os now under review - what a cock up... Is there no one in this profession that can make a decision and lead from the front- it's the same old has beens featured on every publication of every trade magazine: so let's have a debate, how many have you bought atorva ? How many of you are dispensing it ?

If we all agree that from 1st July we will dispense it regardless to clear our stocks before it either goes DT at simva price and we are stuck with it having paid through the nose for it or the court case in July reveals that Teva were right all allowing the other 12 or so generic houses to instantly launch their products that day, sparking a price war, meaning once again we paid through the nose for the first stock which we were advised not to dispense, come on guys if we all dispense what we have, will Pfizer pursue us all and in what grounds?

Some feedback please from people who don't sit on the fence please ??

[email protected], Community pharmacist

Lipitor patent expiry is hopefully coming soon with Bloomberg quoting November, so hopefully this will be the latest. I wish Teva et al, the best of luck with their fight as I am so fed up with hearing "my doctor gave me the cheap tablets" from patients. Trying to explain the difference between cost to the NHS and actual cost to the manufacturer is difficult.
I understand that Pfizer is a business and is protecting what it sees as its property. A 5 month extension is very big money. Lipitor sales were in excess of $3.1 billion in the third quarter of 2009 (again from Bloomberg). Staggering figures.
Viagra's expiry in June 2012 will no doubt be a blow to them too. I can't really think of any other product that is as big for them. Lyrica maybe, expensive but a small patient base. Others??
All this doom and gloom for the company the started Direct to Pharmacy and forced me to use Alliance Boots Unichem (ABU) brings a big grin to my face.

C'mon TEVA !!!!

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