Roche, Cipla trade jabs on Tarceva

We turn to India for updates on another cancer-drug battle, this one between Roche's brand-name Tarceva and Cipla's copycat version, Erlocip. A Roche distributor tattled to India's Drug Controller General, accusing Cipla of promoting its version for an unapproved use. Taksal Pharma alleged that Cipla is touting Erlocip for head and neck cancer and colorectal cancer, as well as for the approved uses in non small-cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. One source close to the situation said, "They are selling it for uses that even the innovator hasn't discovered."

This is just the latest skirmish between Roche and Cipla. The two companies have been wrangling over Tarceva's patent for some time now: Cipla launched a generic even though Roche had a patent on the med, so Roche sued to keep Cipla's drug off the market. Then Cipla countersued, alleging that Tarceva didn't deserve a patent anyway because it's a tweaked version of an older med. Delhi high court denied Roche's injunction, saying that it's in patients' best interest to have Cipla's cheaper version available. Roche appealed. And the beat goes on: hearings are continuing in the patent revocation case. Stay tuned.

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