AstraZeneca beats back would-be Crestor copycats

AstraZeneca ($AZN) chalked up a win in its fight to preserve Crestor's patent protection. A U.S. Appeals Court upheld the cholesterol drug's key patent, in a ruling that would stave off generic competition till 2016.

Given Crestor's multibillion-dollar revenue stream, that decision is a key victory for AstraZeneca--at a time when the company needs every victory it can manage. As Seroquel's sales take a nosedive on generic competition, Crestor is something of a life preserver for the U.K.-based drugmaker. Its sales for the first 9 months of 2012 amounted to $4.6 billion, half of that in the U.S., despite competition from generic Lipitor. Its 2011 sales were $6.6 billion.

Ten generics makers--a veritable who's who in the copycat drug industry--have been battling for the right to sell Crestor copies for years. They've contended that AstraZeneca's 314 patent on the drug's active ingredient, rosuvastatin calcium is invalid, but a U.S. district court upheld that patent earlier this year--and the appeals court has upheld that ruling. The same appeals court upheld two other Crestor patents as well, Reuters notes. 

Now, the generics companies' only legal recourse lies with the Supreme Court, which might or might not agree to take the case. Unless and until then, AstraZeneca can market Crestor without direct generic competition. 

- read the release from AstraZeneca
- see the Reuters story

Special Report: Crestor - The 15 best-selling drugs of 2012