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Lilly rejected by Supreme Court in Gemzar patent case

May 16, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Eli Lilly & Co.’s bid to re-establish the drugmaker’s exclusive right to sell the cancer medicine Gemzar.

The justices Monday left intact a federal appeals court decision invalidating a patent that would have protected Gemzar from generic competition in the U.S. until May 2013.

Hospira Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. began selling generic versions after the lower court ruling. Had the Supreme Court intervened and backed Lilly, those two companies might have had to pay damages and pull their products from the market.

Gemzar, whose chemical name is gemcitabine, generated U.S. sales of $723 million for Indianapolis-based Lilly last year, with generic competition beginning Nov. 15. The drug is used for lung, breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

The appeals court ruling was a victory for India’s Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., a generic-drug manufacturer that challenged the Lilly patent. Trade groups representing brand-name drug and biotechnology companies joined Lilly in urging Supreme Court review.

Lilly is also waging a separate patent fight with Hospira at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Lilly shares were up 40 cents Monday morning, or 1 percent, to 39.35 each. Investors and analysts have been expecting Lilly to lose the patent fight.

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