Teva seeks judgment on Astra's Nexium patents

LOS ANGELES, May 6 (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd TEVA.O has sued AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L asking for a declaratory judgment on remaining Nexium patents, AstraZeneca said on Tuesday.

“AstraZeneca is confident in the strength of its patent protection regarding Nexium and will vigorously protect its intellectual property,” the company said in a statement.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker had sued Israel-based Teva for infringement of some patents covering the ulcer pill and Teva is asking the court to require AstraZeneca to either sue it on these patents, or declare the patents are non-infringed or invalid, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal said in a research note.

“This is part of Teva’s strategy to trigger the exclusivity of Nexium,” he said.

Teva, which could not be reached for comment, is the second generic to challenge Nexium after India's Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd RANB.BO, which last month settled its patent dispute.

Under that deal, Ranbaxy will start selling an inexpensive copycat version of the $5 billion-a-year blockbuster on May 27, 2014, when the first of a series of patents expire, the companies said. Ranbaxy would then be the exclusive generic distributor for the first six months.

“To be able to enter the market, Teva must trigger Ranbaxy’s six month exclusivity on the drug. Teva therefore must invalidate all existing patents, including those both Ranbaxy and Teva were not sued on,” Gal said.

He said Teva will likely succeed in bringing the additional patents into the lawsuit and the case will probably not resolve until early in the next decade.

“The Nexium saga is not over. From the Teva perspective, it suggests an option to monetize the case in the future through settlement (preferred) or early market entry. From AstraZeneca perspective, while the risk was significantly delayed, it is unclear how long its market exclusivity on Nexium will hold,” Gal said.

Nexium is the second-biggest prescription medicine globally, with sales of $5.2 billion in 2007. Only Pfizer Inc's PFE.N cholesterol medicine Lipitor, at $12 billion, sells more. (Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Andre Grenon)