Apotex may just be the little Canadian drugmaker that could. Despite all the evidence, the company still thinks it can knock down the patent on Plavix, the top-earning blood thinner marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis. Apotex has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that upheld that patent.
In its petition to the Supremes, Apotex cites a 2007 court ruling considered to have diminished patent protection in general. And Apotex argues that the appeals court misinterpreted the law on "obviousness," or whether the Plavix patent claims would be obvious to others experienced in developing drugs, the Wall Street Journal reports. And--a bit off the point--the company suggested that by helping "extend monopolies that no longer serve any social purpose," the appeals court ruling will increase healthcare costs.
Apotex has also asked the U.S. Patent Office to re-examine the patent. Bristol and Sanofi, of course, say the Plavix patent remains valid. We'll have to wait and see whether the Supremes decide to weigh in. But meanwhile, Bristol is continuing to fight securities suits over a misguided attempt to stave off Apotex's generic version of Plavix. Under an illegal agreement, Bristol had to wait five days before suing Apotex to stop the copycat version, and during those five days in 2006, the generics maker produced enough of the blood thinner to sell for months.
As BNet Pharma reports, Bristol has settled two of those suits in federal court, and two others are pending in New York State Supreme Court. So no matter what happens with the patent, Bristol will still have plenty of Plavix-related court fights on its hands.