British court ruling backs patent protecting Lilly’s Alimta

Eli Lilly and Co. received some European legal backing for its top product, the lung cancer treatment Alimta, on Thursday when a British court upheld a patent protecting a vitamin regimen administered with the drug.

Shares of the Indianapolis drugmaker were up 4.5 percent Thursday morning after the decision was announced, to $85.99 per share.

The court ruled that Lilly's vitamin regimen patent would be indirectly infringed by a generic competitor. The vitamin patent covers the administration of folic acid and vitamin B12 before and during treatment.

Lilly's patent protecting Alimta's chemical makeup expires at the end of the year in several European markets, but Thursday's court decision makes it likelier that protection for the vitamin regimen will last through June 2021, a spokeswoman said.

Alimta brought in $2.79 billion in sales globally last year as Indianapolis-based Lilly's top-selling product. Regulators have approved the drug to treat patients with forms of advanced, non-small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer linked to asbestos exposure.

Earlier this week, a leading group of U.S. cancer doctors using a new system for scoring oncology drugs awarded a zero for overall benefit to a $9,200-a-month regimen featuring Alimta.

Lilly shares were up more than 19 percent this year heading into Thursday's trading.

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