British court invalidates one patent on Pfizer's Lipitor, upholds another

Pfizer Inc., the world's biggest drugmaker, won a British court ruling Wednesday upholding a key European patent for its best-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor. Pfizer's shares rose more than 3 percent.

Britain's High Court dismissed a legal challenge to the patent, which expires in 2011, from Indian pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., which wants to release a generic version of the drug.

However, Judge Nicholas Pumfrey invalidated a secondary patent, which was due to expire in 2010, relating to Lipitor. The second patent was challenged by both Ranbaxy and Arrow Generics Ltd. Pfizer hailed the court's decision on the 2011 patent, covering atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Lipitor, as an important victory for scientists.

Pfizer said it would appeal the decision on the second patent, which covers the calcium salt of atorvastatin, the AP reports.

Ranbaxy is pursuing a similar legal challenge against Pfizer's U.S. patents on Lipitor, which is the world's best-selling drug with global sales of almost US$11 billion (Ђ9.2 billion) in 2004.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month approved widening the pool of people who can take the popular cholesterol drug to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack to many diabetics who have risk factors for heart disease. A.M.

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