Generic Drugmakers Fight Teva’s Bid to Stall Competition

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Generic drugmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow them to introduce generic versions of  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s (NYSE:TEVA) Copaxone multiple-sclerosis drug onto the market next month, according to Reuters and Bloomberg reports Monday.

The drugmakers, including Novartis AG’s Sandoz Inc., Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc., Mylan Inc. and Natco Pharma Ltd., said in a statement that they would suffer “immense harm” if they were to be barred from selling the generic version of Teva’s Copaxone after its patent expires in the U.S., on May 24, according to Bloomberg.

The generic drugmakers were responding to a prior request made by Teva to Chief Justice John Roberts last week: Teva asked that the Supreme Court block generics of Copaxone until the court considers a previous patent claim made by the Israel-based pharmaceutical company. The case in question could potentially block generics of Copaxone until September of 2015 if the court rules in Teva’s favor.

Copaxone brings in approximately $3.2 billion in annual sales in the U.S., according to Bloomberg, and the drug accounts for more than half of Teva’s profit.

The generic drugmakers have suggested that they might begin selling generic versions of the Copaxone after the May 24 patent expiry date, in which case they may be forced to pay damages to Teva for its lost profit if the court eventually rules in the company’s favor.

The two teams of generic drugmakers argue that granting Teva’s stay application would in essence “decide this litigation for Teva,” by giving the company added time to convince its Copaxone patients to switch from its 20 miligram dose to the 40 miligram version, the latter of which isn’t facing a patent expiration, thereby allowing the company to avoid generic competition altogether, Bloomberg reports.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Teva’s appeal of a previous, July 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals at the end of March; the previous ruling had favored the generic drugmakers and declared several of Teva’s patents invalid, leading to a patent expiry date of May 2014, rather than September 2015.

A ruling on the current appeal could come as late as June 2014, according to Reuters.

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