Canada high court rules against Pfizer on Viagra patent

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled [judgment] Thursday that the Viagra [data report, PDF] patent held by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. [corporate website] is no longer valid, opening the door for generic competition. The court ruled 7-0 against Pfizer on an appeal from Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. [corporate website], the world's largest generic pharmaceutical company. The appeal was brought against Pfizer on the grounds that the company had not provided enough details of the active ingredients in Viagra when filing its patent, which was to run out in 2014. Justice Louis LeBel stated:

The disclosure failed to state in clear terms what the invention was. Pfizer gained a benefit from the [Patent] Act—exclusive monopoly rights—while withholding disclosure in spite of its disclosure obligations under the Act. As a matter of policy and sound statutory interpretation, patentees cannot be allowed to 'game' the system in this way.
The court agreed with Teva's claims, concluding that Pfizer "chose a method of drafting that failed to clearly set out what the invention was. Even now, in its factum to this Court, Pfizer offers no explanation as to why ... it elected to withhold that information." Without a valid patent for Viagra, the door has been opened for generic production of the erectile dysfunction drug. Barry Fishman, CEO of Teva Canada, declared in a recent address [transcript, PDF] that with the rising cost of health care, "generic medicines are an important part of the solution—both now and in the future."

Pfizer has appeared in court numerous times over recent years for issues of patent dispute and drug experimentation. Pfizer has successfully argued against Teva in the US [complaint, PDF], Spain, New Zealand and Norway. In September 2009 Pfizer settled a health care fraud suit [JURIST report] for a record $2.3 billion upon allegations that the company's drug Bextra was misbranded and promoted for "off-label" uses with the intent to defraud or mislead. In July 2009 Pfizer reached a final settlement [JURIST report] with the Nigerian state of Kano over allegedly illegal clinical trials [BBC backgrounder] of the then-experimental antibiotic Trovan [Pfizer fact sheet] conducted in 1996. The suit accused the company of administering meningitis medication to 200 Nigerian children, 100 of which included Trovan, without government authorization or guardian consent.

 

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