Eli Lilly wins chemotherapy patent appeal in UK

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The UK supreme court has ruled that Actavis (now part of Accord Healthcare in the UK and Ireland), which produced alternative forms of chemotherapy drug Alimta (pemetrexed), directly infringed patents held by Eli Lilly in the UK, France, Spain and Italy. The decision reverses two earlier UK court rulings.

Lilly’s patent for pemetrexed, which can have damaging side effects when used alone, expired in December 2015. But it still holds patents for a vitamin regimen — a combination of pemetrexed disodium with vitamin B12 — which largely reduces side effects. Lilly has marketed this as Alimta since 2004. Actavis’ proposed products would involve treating cancerous tumours using different salt forms of pemetrexed along with vitamin B12.

In 2015, a UK court ruled that none of Actavis’ products directly or indirectly infringe Lilly’s vitamin regimen patents. And the court of appeal ruled that generics would indirectly infringe if they are marketed with instructions to dilute in saline before use, but not directly infringe if other equivalents are used. However, the supreme court’s verdict of 7 July says product infringement has taken place regardless of the diluent used.

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