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Lilly sues drug distributor over generic Zyprexa sales

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Eli Lilly and Co., the world’s biggest maker of psychiatric drugs, is suing two United Kingdom-based units of German drug distributer Celesio AG for allegedly infringing its patent for the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa.

Celesio’s Lloyds Pharmacy and Aah Pharmaceuticals businesses sold about 800,000 tablets of generic Zyprexa before agreeing in 2008 to halt sales, Lilly said in a complaint filed in the High Court in London on Aug. 18 and made public last week.

Lilly, based in Indianapolis, took legal action two years ago against “a number of companies” to stop sales of the generic known as olanzapine, according to an e-mailed statement Tuesday from Edward Sagebiel, a Lilly spokesman. The sales ended after Lilly’s patent expiration won an extension until Sept. 26, 2011, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit “has been undertaken by Lilly to obtain its damages as a result of the sale of those products” in 2008, Sagebiel said.

Lloyds Pharmacy agreed to halt the sales “and hold the remainder of the stock in quarantine,” Sarah Stokes, a spokeswoman for Lloyds Pharmacy, said in an e-mail. The lawsuit relates to a single batch of olanzapine that Lloyds Pharmacy purchased, and the company is no longer selling it, she said.

Dean Enon, a spokesman for Coventry, England-based Aah Pharmaceuticals, referred calls to Stokes.

Zyprexa was Lilly’s top-selling drug last year with $4.92 billion in sales, according to a regulatory filing. 

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