As patent cliff nears, more lawsuits filed

Patent lawsuits are all in a day's work for Big Pharma, yes? Hardly a day goes by that some drugmaker doesn't sue a generics firm in an attempt to keep copycat meds off the market. Especially now, when the much-feared patent cliff of 2011 rapidly approaches.

In fact, the latest big-time patent suit comes from Pfizer over Lipitor, its top seller--and the best-selling med in pharma, period. Pfizer filed against Mylan, asking a judge to stop the generics maker from selling a Lipitor copy until 2017. "Defendants have taken immediate and active steps" to sell Lipitor copies in the U.S. and "Pfizer will be irreparably harmed," the suit claims (as reported by Bloomberg). Pfizer already has Lipitor litigation in progress with Apotex and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, aiming to keep those generics off store shelves at least till November 2011, when Ranbaxy Laboratories is scheduled to come out with its Pfizer-blessed copy.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is on the warpath against Sandoz, the generics unit of Novartis. J&J sued the Swiss drugmaker to stop its copycat version of Ortho Tri-Cyclen LO. Sandoz has asked for FDA approval to its version; J&J wants a federal judge to keep Sandoz from getting that OK until a patent expires in 2019. As with Pfizer, this isn't J&J's first lawsuit over the contraceptive pill. The company has sued other drugmakers over their copycat plans, including Watson Pharmaceuticals.

- read the Lipitor piece from Bloomberg
- check out the Sandoz story, also from Bloomberg