Lilly shares rise after Alimta cancer drug patent upheld

Eli Lilly and Co. won an appeals court ruling Thursday that upheld the validity of a patent for its lung cancer drug Alimta, helping shares rise by almost 3 percent.

Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.’s proposed generic version infringes that patent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion on the court’s electronic docket.

Alimta generated $1.7 billion of sales in the first nine months of last year, making it the company’s third-biggest seller behind the Humalog insulin drug and Cialis for erectile dysfunction, Indianapolis-based Lilly said in October.

The patent covers a way of administering the chemotherapy treatment, where it’s given after pretreatment with specific vitamins to reduce the toxicity of the main compound, pemetrexed. Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva argued, unsuccessfully, that it wasn’t liable for infringing the patent if doctors and patients were the ones administering the vitamins.

The patent expires in May 2022, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s registry of information on approved drugs, so generic-drug makers would be barred from selling copies of Alimta until then unless other challenges are more successful. The patent on the main compound lasts only through Jan. 24.

“The significant scientific research that Lilly performed in support of the vitamin regimen patent deserves intellectual property protection, which has been confirmed in every validity challenge to date,’’ Lilly General Counsel Michael Harrington said in a written statement.

Teva spokeswoman Denise Bradley said the company was disappointed with the decision.

Lilly shares rose 2.5 percent Thursday, to close at $77.15 each, the highest since Nov. 17, after trading earlier as high as $77.46. Teva American depository receipts, each representing one ordinary share, fell 1 percent, to $33.94.

While Thursday’s appeals court decision covers the district court case, the patent also is being reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The agency, which uses a different legal standard than courts, is expected to release its final decision by June. That also gets appealed to the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

That means Lilly is “not totally out of the woods,” Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Tim Anderson said in a note to clients. Shares could drop as much as 10 percent if Lilly loses the patent office challenges, he said.

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