After many a riposte, parry, counter-parry, and feint, AstraZeneca has prevailed in its long fencing bout with would-be generic challenger Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The Israeli generics giant agreed to concede that AstraZeneca's Nexium patents are valid and enforceable in return for a license to sell the drug in the U.S. beginning May 27, 2014.
Hear that sigh of relief? We do, too. The settlement deal obviates a court case that would have begun later this month and will protect AstraZeneca's biggest drug--the third-largest worldwide, the Wall Street Journal says--from generic competition that might have begun in 2011. That's no small thing; after all, Nexium brought in $5.2 billion in 2008.
The company already inked a similar deal with Ranbaxy Laboratories, which allows the Indian drugmaker to sell Nexium copies beginning in May 2014. And investment analysts at Panmure Gordon expect a similar deal with Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, another Indian generics challenger.
Next, look for AstraZeneca to focus on protecting Crestor. A patent challenge goes to court next month, in which generics makers Apotex, Aurobindo Pharma, Cobalt Group, Mylan, Par Pharmaceutical and Sandoz are fighting to sell copycats of the cholesterol drug before its patent expires in 2016. Crestor is another of AstraZeneca's big sellers, with $3.6 billion in 2008 sales.