Two generics makers have received some bad news from court. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (NASDAQ: TEVA) and Sun Pharmaceuticals lost their bid to overturn April's jury verdict that the heartburn drug Protonix is still under patent. Both companies already launched copycat versions of the drug--so-called "at-risk" launches--meaning that they could end up paying damages to Pfizer. Hundreds of millions in damages in Sun's case, and more than $1 billion in Teva's case.
Swiss drugmaker Nycomed originally licensed its Protonix patent to Wyeth, which was bought out by Pfizer last year. And Nycomed officials say they fully intend to "vigorously pursue" damage claims against Teva and Sun. RBS says in a new note to investors that Sun's liability could be up to $300 million, while Morgan Stanley estimates anywhere from $250 million to $750 million. Estimates of Teva's liability have reached as high as $2 billion, but Globes today quoted $1 billion.
Teva still has other patent claims pending in district court, and both companies say they still believe that the patent is unenforceable--and that they'll continue to appeal. They also point out that the U.S. District Court may not have overturned the verdict, but it also didn't bar them from selling their versions of Protonix until the patent expires. The court hasn't issued a detailed opinion yet.