India's top court orders temporary halt to Glenmark's production of Merck diabetes drugs

India's Supreme Court has called a temporary halt to Glenmark's production of generics of two Merck ($MRK) diabetes drugs but allowed continued sales of the local drugmaker's inventory through October or November.

The major issue of the merits of Merck's patent for its Januvia and Janumet (sitagliptin) and whether Glenmark violated it by marketing in India the generics Zita and Zitamet was put off until a Supreme Court hearing on the issue July 22.

The order asked the Delhi High Court and an agency involved to expedite evidence-taking and complete the docket in Merck's suit by the end of June, if possible. Then it ordered the trial court to begin hearing arguments beginning July 6 and complete them in time before the Supreme Court hearing.

The case is being watched closely by India drugmakers and multinational pharmas doing business in India since it relates to concerns over patent protection as well a regional trade agreement expected to be reached soon.

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries has been marketing the innovative version of the Merck drugs in India since 2008. Glenmark launched its generics two years ago, prompting Merck's suit.

Sun, which is considering its response in its own court case brought by a retailer charging antitrust violations by subsidiary Ranbaxy Laboratories, sells the Merck drugs for about half again higher than Glenmark's price.

The court said it allowed the Glenmark inventory to remain on the market on behalf of patients who rely on them, adding that the supply covering current demand was likely to be depleted in October or November.

- here's the Supreme Court order (PDF)
- and stories from Reuters, Business Today and Indian Express