Pfizer Faces Earlier Celebrex Competition After Ruling

Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, faces competition to its $3 billion arthritis pill Celebrex in May after a federal judge invalidated a patent that would have extended protection through December 2015.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mylan Inc., and Lupin Ltd. were among the generic-drug makers who successfully argued that New York-based Pfizer’s patent wasn’t different enough from the one expiring in May. Pfizer “will pursue all available remedies, including an immediate appeal of the court’s decision,” the company said in a statement today.

Celebrex, which belongs to a class of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors, helps arthritis patients reduce pain by blocking a chemical reaction in the body that causes inflammation. The medicine had been projected to generate $2.5 billion between May and when the 2015 patent was slated to expire, according to sales estimates surveyed by Bloomberg.

“It seems likely that odds are in favor of generics launching early,” said Timothy Anderson, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Pfizer’s earnings per share will be cut by 4 percent this year and 8 percent in 2015 if copycats do make it to market, he wrote in a note to clients.

“There would be little to no impact to EPS from 2016 onwards because we have already been modeling generics in late 2015,” Anderson said.

Pfizer fell 1.4 percent to $31.98 at 4 p.m. New York time.

An appeals court had previously invalidated the patent. New York-based Pfizer asked the patent office to reissue it with modifications to address the appeals court ruling. District Judge Arenda Wright in Norfolk, Virginia, ruled that the changes weren’t allowed under patent law.

The case is G.D. Searle LLC v. Lupin Pharmaceuticals Inc., 13-121, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk).

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