Pfizer gives Teva a lift with deal for Viagra generic launch in 2017

After years of wrangling over Pfizer's ($PFE) patent on Viagra, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) has made a deal. Under an agreement with Pfizer, the Israeli generics giant can launch its version of the blockbuster pill on Dec. 11, 2017, more than two years before its final patent protection expires. 

Teva will have to pay royalties to Pfizer until that April 2020 expiration date, but it's still a big boost for the generics maker. And Teva can certainly use one these days, with the surprise shortening of Copaxone's patent life and the palace intrigue that recently ended with CEO Jeremy Levin's sudden departure. Viagra (sildenafil citrate) is one of the best-selling and best-known drugs ever, the "little blue pill" that revolutionized aging for the baby boomer male, with some $2 billion in 2012 sales.

For Pfizer, it's the end of a long patent dispute--one that it actually won in federal court in 2011, when that 2019 patent gained legal confirmation. Teva quickly appealed, leading to this final settlement.

Since then, Pfizer has lost Viagra exclusivity in Europe, where as many as 20 generics makers quickly rolled out cheaper versions of the drug--and quickly took an 11% bite out of quarterly sales. Generic versions in Korea, including one made by Hanmi Pharmaceutical, grabbed 45% of the market there.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has pursued a variety of formulation and marketing strategies to keep its Viagra franchise going. It rolled out a new, chewable version in Mexico, for instance, and it was working on an over-the-counter version. And the company has struck back at counterfeiters worldwide by launching a website to sell directly to patients--just as some online pharmacies hawk their fake versions.

The settlement could affect other erectile dysfunction brands on the market, which retain patent protection beyond 2017. Bayer's Levitra, for instance, won't fall off patent until September 2018, and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis is expected to face generic rivals in May 2018.

- see the release from Teva

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