March 19, 2020 / 12:27 PM / 11 days ago

CORRECTED-Israel OKs use of generic AbbVie drug to treat coronavirus despite patent

(Corrects to say drug made by Abbott Laboratories spin-off AbbVie)

TEL AVIV, March 19 (Reuters) - Israel’s attorney general on Thursday approved for the first time the use of a generic version of a patent-protected drug to treat coronavirus patients.

The anti-viral drug Kaletra, produced by AbbVie Inc , is a treatment for HIV but Israel’s Health Ministry found it could be a possible treatment for COVID-19 and a preliminary permit for the drug was issued.

There are 529 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel.

AbbVie’s patent for Kaletra in Israel ends in 2024 but the patent in some other countries, such as India, has expired.

“The company with the patent and the official importer in Israel are not able to supply the necessary inventory for this drug, which is very much in demand all over the world these days,” the Justice Ministry said.

“Therefore ... the state will be able to import generic substitutes from countries where the patent has expired.”

It said generic Kaletra will only be used to treat coronavirus and not HIV. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Tova Cohen)

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