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Gilead's hot-selling Sovaldi draws more patent attacks

Idenix, Merck and Roche have taken a swipe at the drug's patents
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Cambridge, MA-based Idenix Pharmaceuticals ($IDIX) has already accused Gilead Sciences ($GILD) of infringing its patent with next-generation hep C drug Sovaldi. Now, it's padding its ongoing litigation with a trio of European lawsuits over the drug, which analysts say could wind up being the best-selling med of all time. 

Friday, Idenix filed suits against Gilead in France, Germany and the U.K. on grounds that the company infringed a recently granted European patent on nucleosides. It's already tied up with Gilead in a number of other legal tussles, including a pair of U.S. lawsuits it slapped the California company with in December.

"Today's filings further confirm Idenix's conviction in the strength of our intellectual property portfolio and the resolve we have to protect it," Maria Stahl, SVP and general counsel at Idenix, said in a statement. "Idenix has invested significant resources in nucleoside drug discovery and in building a valuable intellectual property portfolio--and we will continue to vigorously defend it."

Idenix can add its suits to the pile of claims from pharma companies that want in on the hot-selling hep C wonder. Last August, Gilead filed a preemptive lawsuit against Merck ($MRK) after it put a claim on 10% of Sovaldi's future sales. Roche ($RHHBY), too, has argued that a Pharmasset partnership from back in 2004 gave it an exclusive license on the drug, but Gilead dismantled that argument, pointing out that the deal's expiration date preceded Gilead's Pharmasset pickup.

Gilead didn't respond to a request for comment on the new suits, but the company has said it believes any claims on Sovaldi are baseless. Analysts haven't fretted, either, and so far they've continued to raise their sales projections as the drug racks up prescriptions. At one time, high forecasts put sales at $9 billion or more by 2017, which would unseat Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor as the all-time best-seller. But last week, ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum went even further, pegging estimates at $8 billion--at least--in 2014 alone.

- read the release from Idenix

Special Report: An ominous trend resurfaces as new drug approvals plunge in 2013 - Sovaldi: Gilead hits pay dirt with a breakthrough hep C drug

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