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Viagra Producers In Canada Win Suit To Protect Patent

June 19, 2009

In a major legal victory for pharmaceutical monolith Pfizer, a Canadian court ruled on Thursday that the company’s patent for Viagra would remain valid, rebuffing attempts by generic drug manufacturer Novopharm to produce a cheaper version of the popular sex-enhancing drug.

The decision is important both as a symbolic and precedent-setting triumph for all manufacturers of name-brand pharmaceuticals.

In his comments on the proceedings, Judge Michael Kelen said that Novopharm’s legal team had failed to sufficiently demonstrate their claim that Pfizer’s patent of the erectile dysfunction medication was invalid.

Notwithstanding the possibility of appeals, the judge’s decision will require Canada’s health ministry to refuse Novopharm’s request for special permission to produce a generic version of Viagra prior to the expiration of Pfizer’s patent in 2014.

Originally developed some 20 years ago to treat high blood pressure and chest pain, Sildenafil, the main active ingredient in Viagra, was observed to cause lasting erections in test subjects.  The company subsequently changed strategies and began marketing the drug as a treatment for erectile dysfunction rather than hypertension.

During the legal proceedings, Novopharm attempted to reveal discrepancies surrounding the timing of Pfizer’s discovery of Sildenafil and their application for a patent.

Judge Kelen found Novopharm’s claims unsubstantial, stating that “the court concludes that the applicants [Pfizer] have met their legal burden to establish the validity of the patent.”

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