March 6, 2015 / 1:55 PM / 4 years ago

Eli Lilly loses Alimta drug patent case in Germany to Actavis

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly has lost a patent case in Germany over its blockbuster Alimta lung cancer drug to generic producer Actavis, hitting the U.S. drugmaker’s future sales hopes for the medicine.

Alimta generated worldwide sales of $2.79 billion for Lilly last year, making the medicine its biggest-selling product.

The German appeal court ruled that Actavis would not infringe patents held by Lilly if it marketed an alternative salt form of the drug, known generically as pemetrexed, once the compound patent expires in December 2015.

The ruling contradicts a previous verdict by a lower court in Germany and Lilly’s general counsel, Michael Harrington, said the company would fight the decision.

“We will seek permission to appeal this ruling to the German Supreme Court,” Harrington said in a statement on Friday.

Lilly contends that Alimta should continue to enjoy exclusivity to June 2021 because of patents covering a vitamin regimen that is used with the drug. These patents relate to the administration of folic acid and vitamin B12 to patients before and while they receive Alimta to prevent side effects.

Lilly suffered a similar setback in the English High Court last May.

In that case the English court gave corresponding declarations of non-infringement regarding Alimta’s vitamin regimen patents in France, Italy and Spain, the first example of such foreign jurisdiction for a European patent.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Jane Merriman and David Holmes

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