Pfizer, Ranbaxy deal would delay generic Lipitor

NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc PFE.N said on Wednesday that Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd RANB.BO may begin selling a U.S. generic form of its Lipitor cholesterol fighter by late 2011 under a settlement deal, at least five months later than Wall Street expectations.

Industry analysts have long expected Pfizer’s U.S. marketing exclusivity for Lipitor to lapse no later than June 2011 and for cheaper generic forms of the world’s best-selling drug to then immediately flood U.S. drugstores.

But under Pfizer’s settlement with India’s Ranbaxy, which has long challenged Lipitor’s patents in the courts, U.S. patients will not have access to Ranbaxy’s copycat product until Nov. 30, 2011.

The delay would buy a little extra time for Pfizer, whose earnings are expected to plunge once a generic form of its $12 billion-a-year flagship product arrives and starts hammering away at Lipitor sales.

Asked if the delay could spark a backlash among patients and insurers who favor cheaper generics, David Reid, Pfizer’s acting general counsel, said: “We’re pleased with this settlement and we actually think it is pro-patient, pro-competitive and pro-intellectual property.” (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)