British court upholds Lipitor patent

A British court sided with Pfizer in its patent battle over its cholesterol drug Lipitor, a ruling seen as a much needed respite for the pharmaceutical industry. Indian generic maker Ranbaxy had filed the suit asking the court to overturn the patent, which covers atorvastatin, the drug's active ingredient. Lipitor, with sales in excess of of $10 billion, is the world's best-selling drug. The decision at least partially resolves an issue which had been widely seen as a major question mark for the drug maker. The implications of the ruling extend beyond the UK; a US court is expected to hear the case at some point later this year.

The British court ruled in favor of Ranbaxy and Arrow Generics on a second patent covering the calcium salt of atorvastatin, which is set to expire in 2010, but for now it looks like Pfizer has clear sailing with Lipitor until 2011.

- see this report from the Associated Press