India's Cipla loads up for at-risk launch of generic Nexavar

India's Cipla is preparing to launch a copycat version of Bayer's cancer treatment Nexavar at one-tenth the price. The move has patient advocates in India cheering--and Bayer booing.

Here's the situation: Bayer has been fighting Cipla in Indian court, trying to prevent the local company from knocking off its drug. In 2008, Bayer asked the Delhi High Court to keep Cipla's version off the market; two months ago, the court rejected the plea. So Bayer took the case to India's Supreme Court, where it's still pending. Meanwhile, Cipla has challenged Bayer's patent on the drug.

But Cipla decided to go ahead and risk a launch, even though both cases have yet to be decided, the Economic Times reports. If Cipla loses in court, it will have to pay a penalty. But Indian patent lawyers speculate that the launch might actually sway the courts against Bayer, to keep the price of Nexavar low. "Judges will consider the public interest," the Times said.

This would be the second time that Cipla has undercut a Big Pharma cancer drug. In 2008, the company launched a generic version of Roche's Tarceva at one-third the going price.

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