TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal court on Wednesday invalidated the key patent for one of Pfizer's most lucrative medicines, potentially opening the door for cheaper generic versions 18 months sooner than expected and cutting into the drugmaker's profit.
Pfizer Inc., still trying to make up for the loss of about $7 billion in annual sales since generic competition hit its cholesterol fighter Lipitor in December 2011 , could lose a couple billion more if the court decision on the Celebrex patent stands. The world's second-biggest drugmaker said it disagrees with the ruling and will "pursue all available remedies," including immediately appealing Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Arenda Allen of Virginia's Eastern District in Norfolk.
Celebrex, Pfizer's fourth-bestselling product, brought in $2.9 billion in worldwide sales last year. The anti-inflammatory pill is widely used for arthritis and acute pain. Celebrex has been on the market for more than a decade, so Pfizer's gross profit margin on the drug may exceed 90 percent.
Trading of Pfizer shares on the New York Stock Exchange was briefly halted before the announcement. Shares closed at $31.98, down 44 cents, or 1.4 percent, but still near Pfizer's 52-week high. In after-hours trading, shares fell another 7 cents.
The case involves a "reissue patent" that prevented U.S. sales of generic versions until Dec. 2, 2015. Last March, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Pfizer the "reissue patent," which corrected what Pfizer called technical deficiencies in the original patent covering the diseases treated by the drug's active ingredient, celecoxib. Those include acute and menstrual pain, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, and a painful spinal joint disorder called ankylosing spondylitis.
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