Lilly wins cancer drug patent dispute


Eli Lilly stands to gain billions of dollars in revenue from sales of chemotherapy drug Alimta in the US, after it won a legal battle to uphold a patent covering the drug’s use in combination with B vitamins.

When used alone, Alimta (pemetrexed) can have severe, potentially fatal side effects. Trials carried out by Lilly established that combining Alimta with folic acid and vitamin B12 reduced these effects. The compound patent is due to expire in 2017, but an additional patent covering the use of the drug with the vitamin supplements will last until 2022. Israel-based firm Teva Pharmaceutical Industries disputed the validity of this patent, saying that adding supplements to the drug was a logical approach to reducing side effects. But the court ruled in Lilly’s favour, concluding that the company had put significant resources into developing the treatment regimen.

The win could mean around $500 million (£302 million) extra in sales per year after 2017 for Lilly, making up for some losses after the patent on its best-selling drug – antidepressant Cymbalta – expired in December last year. In a bid to protect Alimta sales overseas, Lilly is also currently involved in similar court cases in the UK, Germany and with the EU Patent Office.


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