Thank you, U.S. patent office. Pfizer ($PFE) won an extra 18 months of exclusivity for its pain drug Celebrex, in the form of a reissued patent that doesn't expire till the end of 2015. That means a cool couple of billion in extra sales.
Celebrex brought in $1.7 billion in the U.S. last year, ranking it among the company's biggest sellers now that Lipitor is off patent. The drug was scheduled to lose market exclusivity on May 30, 2014. With the new method-of-use patent, Celebrex can hang on to that market for another year and a half.
Provided, at least, that the courts back Pfizer's exclusive claim. The company immediately sued several generics makers that have asked FDA to approve their Celebrex copies. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA), Mylan ($MYL), Watson Pharmaceuticals--now Actavis ($ACT)--and Apotex were aiming to launch their versions beginning next May.
The extra revenue would come in handy at Pfizer, which is remaking itself into a streamlined version of its former, more diversified self. Lipitor, once a $9 billion seller, brought in only $3.95 billion last year, thanks to generic competition. Newer drugs are helping to fill the gap, but 2012 sales were down 10% overall.