AZ loses rounds in Crestor, Nexium fights

AstraZeneca ($AZN) had a rough day in court. Judges on both sides of the Atlantic ruled against its bids to block generic rivals for two of its three top-selling blockbusters. In the U.S., a federal judge rejected the company's method-of-use patents on the cholesterol drug Crestor; in Denmark, a court stiff-armed its motion to ban a Slovenian drugmaker from selling a copy of the stomach-acid drug Nexium.

As Bloomberg points out, the ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler could lop six years off Crestor's patent life, which would put a serious crimp on AstraZeneca's sales (the drug is protected by a separate patent till 2016). Last year, Crestor pulled in about $4.5 billion globally, about 14 percent of AZ's total revenue, making it the company's third-biggest product. On the other hand, the new ruling could be a boon to the likes of Mylan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals and a half-dozen other generics makers.

Meanwhile, in northern Europe, a Danish judge rejected a motion from AstraZeneca to ban Slovenia's Krka from importing and marketing its version of Nexium. That, of course, is AZ's top seller, whose first U.S. patent expires in 2014. In the U.S., the company has agreed to allow Teva and Ranbaxy Laboratories to start selling copycat versions then. But in parts of Europe, the patent fight is still up in the air: Ranbaxy sued AstraZeneca just last month over its U.K. exclusivity, and patent disputes are pending elsewhere.

One bit of good news on the Nexium front, however: A Norwegian court took the opposite view of its Danish counterpart and ordered Krka to stop selling the active ingredient in Nexium there. The court said those sales infringed on AZ's patent rights.

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