Pfizer loses appeal against Lasco

By Camilo Thame Business Co-ordinator

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

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British pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has lost its lawsuit against Lasco Distributors and Medimpex Jamaica, which it claimed had used patent-protected drugs, called Salts of Amlodipine, in their hypertension and heart ailment medications.

The case, which included an injunction barring the local companies from selling their treatments in 2005, was dismissed by the Court of Appeal last Thursday, following a 2009 Supreme Court ruling in favour of Lasco and Medimpex.

It is not yet clear whether Pfizer will appeal to the UK Privy Council, but it has a few weeks to do so.

The court also ordered that there be an inquiry into the damages payable to the local companies consequent on the undertakens given by Pfizer for the grant of the injunction.

The process to determine the amount to be paid has begun.

The injunction, which was granted in 2005 and which was supposed to lapse in 2009 was extended up to the date of the judgment last week.

Medimpex's attorneys did not offer an estimate for revenue lost over the past seven years, when contacted by the Jamaica Observer yesterday, however, Lasco — a publicly listed company — had placed its loss at $400 million up to March this year.

According to records submitted in court, Medimpex had total sales of its product, Normodipine, amounting to approximately $45.2 million between 2001 and 2005, while Lasco's drug, Las Amlodipine, brought in $24.3 million in revenue between May 2002 and December 2005.

Pfizer sold US$1.2 million of its own product, Norvasc, in Jamaica in 2001, but its revenue fell to US$481,000 in 2002 when the two local companies introduced their hypertension and heart treatment drugs. Pfizer's sales rose over the following two years, and jumped to US$1.1 million in 2005, when the injunction against Lasco and Medimpex was granted.

Moreover, between 2006 and 2008, US$7.1 million of Novarsc was sold in Jamaica.

Pfizer had sued the local companies, claiming that the use of Salts of Amlodipine/Amlodipine Besylate in their drugs went against a 2002 Jamaica Letters Patent, which expires in 2016.

The defence attorneys argued that the Jamaican Patent was not in force when the local companies started to market its own product, Las Amlodipine since an earlier patent granted to Pfizer in Egypt had expired in 1997. They further argued that the process of production, and use of the said salt of amlodipine was published in journals and made available for public and common use in Jamaica from as far back as 1986.

Pfizer had claimed US$15.5 million in aggregate against the two local companies.

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