Roche resolves patent war with India's Glenmark over generic Tarceva

Roche ($RHHBY) is burying the hatchet with India's Glenmark in a patent war for its cancer drug Tarceva, settling outstanding litigation with the company even as it wages a battle with another Indian generics maker over a patent for the med.

The Swiss drugmaker struck an out-of-court settlement deal with Glenmark, saying that it would stop seeking costs and damages from the Indian generics maker as long as Glenmark acknowledges its intellectual property rights for Tarceva, which treats non-small cell lung cancer. The companies will also call off "all relevant patent litigation," Roche and Glenmark told the Business Standard in a joint statement, prompting the Delhi High Court toss out their pending patent suit.

But Roche is still embroiled in other patent battles over Tarceva, including a years-long brawl with India's Cipla. Roche scored a victory in November after the Delhi High Court upheld its patent claims on Tarceva. The court stopped short of restricting sales of Cipla's product, though, saying that the Indian firm could continue selling its copycat med, called Erlocip, until Tarceva's patent expires in 2016.

The decision came more than a year after a court ordered Roche and Cipla to enter mediation regarding the Tarceva patent after a string of back-and-forth disputes. In 2009, the Delhi High Court dealt Cipla a victory, rejecting Roche's patent arguments and allowing the Indian company to continue selling its Tarceva copy. In September 2012, an Indian court upheld Roche's IP rights for Tarceva but also found that Cipla's Erlocip did not violate the company's patent, saying that Erlocip has a different molecular structure than Roche's drug.

The patent battles will likely continue as Roche tries to hold onto sales for Tarceva, even as it faces growing competition to the med. Boehringer Ingelheim is making progress with its Tarceva rival, Gilotrif, showing last summer that the drug beat Tarceva in a head-to-head trial in previously treated patients with squamous lung cancer.

Competition to Tarceva could take its toll sooner rather than later, and Roche already seems to be feeling the burn. Global sales for Tarceva dropped 7% to 894 million Swiss francs ($892 million) during the first 9 months of 2015, Roche recently revealed, leaving some ground for the company to cover with the med in the year to come.

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