Unilab vows to launch more branded generic drugs

Sunday, November 15, 2009



United Laboratories Inc. (Unilab), the country's biggest drug manufacturer, vows to continue launching branded generic drugs to provide quality but cheaper medicines to the public even as it faces a patentinfringement suit from Pfizer Inc. for launching Avamax, the generic drug equivalent of Pfizer's Lipitor. Jose Maria A. Ochave, Unilab vice-president forlegal services group, expects sales of Avamax (anti-cholesterol drug) to reach P20 million next year from P15 million this year.

Ochave, however, said that sales projection for Avamax also included those from Mercury, but which had not been carrying Avamax for unknown reason. The extensive Mercury drugstore chain accounts for 40 percent of the total medicine sales in the country.

But this is only a small portion of the P890 million sales of Lipitor, which is growing at 21.5 percent annually, Ochave said.

Ochave also said that Unilab was even coming out with a generic drug equivalent of Pfizer drug Zithromax (Azithromycin, an antibiotics drug), in the first quarter of next year.

But Unilab would be using the monohydrate raw material to avoid a patent issue over Pfizers di-hydrate.

Ochave said this even as the company faced a patent infringement suit from multinational drug company Pfizer for coming up with Avamax, the generic drug equivalent of the Lipitor (Atorvastatin).
Ochave has downplayed the impact of the Pfizer suit, saying the Lipitor patent, set to expire in 2012, was weak and frivolous and for that Unilab also filed a case before the Intellectual Property of the Philippines (IPO) for the cancellation of the Lipitor patent.

Ochave said this was not the first that we are going after each other, noting that there had been several instances in the past that Unilab came up with generic drug equivalent of the branded products.

But this is the first time that Pfizer sued them and this is also the first time for them to file for the cancellation of a particular patent on the ground that the Lipitor patent is weak and frivolous.
Lawyer Susan D. Villanueva, an intellectual property expert, said that the Lipitor patent granted in 2004 in the Philippines was actually a mere reinstatement of the two expired Philippine patents and one expired U.S. patent.

This makes it (Lipitor) the third patent in the country and that falls under evergreening the patentability of a drug when it fact there was nothing new in it and therefore no longer patentable, she said.

Ochave said there was no stopping them in the marketing of Avamax, which is 30 percent cheaper than Lipitor, unless the court will prohibit them because under Section 91 of the IP Code, the law does not give the patent owner the exclusive right to use but only right to prohibit.

Ochave also said that the patent owner of Lipitor is not Pfizer but Warner Lambert of New Jersey. In the complaints filed before the Makati Regional Trial Court, the co-plaintiffs are Pfizer and Warner Lambert LLC. Thus, Unilab filed a motion to dismiss the case because the patent owner was not Warner Lambert LLC but Warner Lambert of New Jersey.  Continue Reading here http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2649988/

Tags:  unilab philippines, Avamaxm, Pfizer's Lipitor,  Zithromax,Azithromycin, Mercury drugstore chain, Warner Lambert  

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