Patent ruling on Lilly drug stirs some surprise but little reaction from investors

Patent ruling on Lilly drug stirs some surprise

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal court ruling that invalidated a patent protecting Eli Lilly and Co.’s cancer drug Gemzar surprised at least one analyst covering the company but stirred little reaction from investors in trading Tuesday.

Lilly said Monday evening the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan had granted a motion by generic drug maker Sun Pharmaceuticals for a partial summary judgment in a lawsuit over Gemzar — invalidating Lilly’s method-of-use patent, which had been set to expire in 2013.

Lilly said it planned to appeal the ruling, which has no bearing on Gemzar’s compound patent, which remains valid until November 2010.

The ruling does not grant Sun Pharmaceuticals the ability to immediately launch a generic version of Gemzar, known as gemcitabine, in the U.S.

Gemzar was Lilly’s fourth-best seller last year, generating $1.7 billion in revenue.

Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez said in a note the ruling was a surprise because legal consultants had viewed the patent “as relatively solid because of its narrow scope.”

BMO Capital Markets analyst Robert Hazlett said in a separate note the ruling could put Gemzar’s U.S. sales at risk in late 2010.

UBS analyst Keyur Parekh said in another note they had already assumed Gemzar sales would be hurt by the launch of generic competition. They forecast Gemzar’s U.S. sales to fall from $730 million next year to $70 million in 2011.

Lilly shares rose 10 cents to $32.81 in Tuesday afternoon trading.

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