Pfizer faces $1 billion charge in bogus patent dispute over blood pressure medication Norvasc

Sunday, September 09, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Pfizer, patents, Jamaica

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(NaturalNews) Several years ago, drug giant Pfizer Inc. tried to pull a fast one in Jamaica where several local companies were legally distributing generic versions of Pfizer's formerly-patented blood pressure drug Norvasc (Amlodipine). Though the drug was already off-patent elsewhere, Pfizer still tried to sue the distributors in Jamaica for patent infringement, and is now being summoned to fork over about $1 billion for compensation and legal costs for this foolish move.

On January 22, 2007, Pfizer reportedly obtained a patent for Norvasc in Jamaica, despite the fact that the same patent for the drug had already expired in Egypt about a decade earlier on March 31, 1997. Jamaica's Patents Act of 1857 prohibits the patenting of a drug that has already had its patent expire in another country, which means Pfizer's attempt to re-patent Norvasc was technically invalid and illegal.

But according to the Jamaica Gleaner, Pfizer decided to take both Lasco and Medimpex, the two companies involved, to court back in 2002 in an attempt to thwart their distribution system. And in the process, Pfizer successfully obtained an injunction in 2005 forcing the companies to stop distributing the drug.

The case was eventually taken to the Supreme Court; however, where Justice Roy Jones, now retired, ruled that Pfizer's Jamaica patent for Norvasc was null. Pfizer responded by trying to appeal the decision on the grounds that Justice Jones had erred in his understanding of the law. But the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed several years later that the decision was valid, and that Pfizer's Jamaican patent for Norvasc was in violation of the law.

In their own defense, Lasco and Medimpex explained that details about Norvasc's ingredients and formulation had already been openly publicized in journals since as far back as October 1986. This, of course, is in addition to the fact that Norvasc had been made legally available for generic production and distribution for about 15 years.

Just a few weeks before Pfizer was hit with the $1 billion charge in the Norvasc case, the company also settled a lawsuit involving its painkiller drug Celebrex. The New York Times reports that Pfizer agreed to pay $450 million to settle charges filed against it by Brigham Young University in Utah, which accused the company of violating a research agreement it had made with the university over its role in originally developing the drug.

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