AstraZeneca awarded $76 million from Apotex for Prilosec generic

Tue Dec 3, 2013 1:45pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK Dec 3 (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge has awarded AstraZeneca Plc $76 million in damages from generic drug manufacturer Apotex for infringing upon patents for AstraZeneca's blockbuster heartburn drug, Prilosec, between 2003 and 2007.

Following a two-week non-jury trial, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York said Apotex, Canada's largest generic pharmaceutical company, must pay AstraZeneca the equivalent of 50 percent of its profits during the three-and-a-half years it sold a generic version of Prilosec.

A different federal judge in New York had already found in 2007 that Apotex's version of the drug infringed AstraZeneca's patent due to a thin, microscopic salt layer that formed during the manufacturing process, leaving the amount of damages as the only issue to be resolved during the trial.

Lawyers and a spokesman for Apotex declined to comment on the ruling, which was dated Nov. 26, but kept under seal until Tuesday, while Cote considered whether to redact any portions at AstraZeneca's request.

A call to AstraZeneca for comment was not immediately returned.

The verdict is the final chapter in broader litigation undertaken by AstraZeneca against various generic drug makers to protect Prilosec, one of the world's highest-selling drugs before losing U.S. patent protection.

AstraZeneca launched an over-the-counter version of Prilosec as its patent expired, as well as a next-generation heartburn drug, Nexium, which has mirrored its predecessor's multibillion-dollar sales.

In a 128-page decision, Cote analyzed both companies' positions in "imagining a successful hypothetical licensing negotiation between Astra and Apotex in November 2003, on the eve of Apotex's launch."   Continued...