Chalk up another anti-generic victory for AstraZeneca. A U.S. court gave the drugmaker a restraining order that bars Apotex from selling a copycat version of AstraZeneca's top-selling asthma medicine Pulmicort Respules. Toward month's end, the court plans to determine whether the injunction should be made permanent.
This is AstraZeneca's second successful challenge to a Pulmicort generic; last fall, the same U.S. judge barred Teva from selling its generic version of the med. The two companies later settled their patent dispute, with AstraZeneca giving Teva the right to start selling copycat Pulmicort Respules on December 15, 2009, in return for royalty payments. AZ says its patents protect the medicine through 2018.
AZ's Teva experience may have shown the court just how much damage a generic launch can do in short order. The Israeli drugmaker had briefly entered the market with its version, capturing 40 percent of the market within a month. In 2008, U.S. sales of Pulmicort amounted to $982 million, with 90 percent of that coming in the Respule form.