Pfizer's recent history with its pain drug Celebrex is as zigzaggy as a rabbit running from a predator. At first, Celebrex was slipping toward the end of its patent life just like any other mature drug, and its multibillion-dollar annual sales would soon slide with it.
Then, a U.S. appeals court invalidated a 2015 method patent, hacking 18 months off of Pfizer's hoped-for revenue stream. Soon after, however, Pfizer ($PFE) managed a reversal: It persuaded the U.S. Patent Office to reissue that patent with changes, adding those 18 months back.
But then came another turnabout. Last month, a U.S. court tossed out that reissued patent, deeming it invalid.
Pfizer appealed, of course. That didn't stop generics makers from revving up their copycat launch plans. They might roll out their copies "at risk," meaning that they'd have to pay damages to Pfizer if the branded drugmaker eventually won that appeal.
Now, however, at least two companies will avoid that risk. Pfizer has settled its patent fight with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) and Actavis ($ACT), allowing both generics companies to launch Celebrex copies in December at the latest. That's 6 months after the 2014 patent expiration, but 12 months ahead of that reissued 2015 method patent.
It's a compromise that puts off most of the pain to 2015. But it still leaves Pfizer suffering a billion or two in lost sales. Celebrex brought in $2.9 billion in 2013, $2.2 billion of that in the U.S., according to IMS Health statistics.
Mylan ($MYL) is another generics maker in the Celebrex-copy mix. When Pfizer lost that reissued patent last month, the company said it was planning to roll out its version as soon as possible. Whether it's on the verge of its own deal with Pfizer remains to be seen.
- read the release from Actavis
Special Reports: Top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - Pfizer | Top 10 generics makers by 2012 revenue - Teva - Actavis - Mylan