German court deals another EU patent blow to Lilly's blockbuster Alimta

Courtesy of Eli Lilly

It's more bad news for Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Alimta in Europe. After losing a patent fight last year with Actavis ($ACT) in England, the Indianapolis drugmaker has now lost another in Germany, paving the way for knockoff versions of its top drug there.

According to the German appeals court ruling, Actavis won't infringe Lilly's patents if it markets an alternative salt form of the cancer-fighter once Alimta's compound patent expires this December, Reuters reports. Lilly's general counsel Michael Harrington said in a Friday statement that the company would seek permission to appeal the ruling, which contradicts a previous verdict by a lower German court.

If those efforts aren't successful, the company could be facing competition on the $2.79 billion seller, which took the No. 6 spot on 2013's worldwide list of best-selling cancer drugs. And after recently falling victim to generic competition on Evista and former top dog Cymbalta, that's something the pharma giant definitely doesn't want to see.

Luckily for Lilly, it's managed to stave off Alimta copycats in the U.S. until 2022--a win that protects $1.2 billion in U.S. revenues, or 6% of the company's worldwide haul. Last April, a federal judge decreed an unusual vitamin dosage patent valid, deciding that adding a pair of B vitamins to the Alimta regimen to remedy side effects was worthy of the extra IP shield.

The company hasn't had such good fortune in Europe, though. Just a month and a half after the U.S. victory, the English High Court gave Actavis the go-ahead to push its generics through at the end of this year and issued noninfringement declarations that apply in France, Italy and Spain as well.

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