International News: UK court rules on Viagra patent, rivals to scramble

LONDON: The blueprint for anti-impotence drugs such as Viagra is up for grabs in the UK, where a court last week stripped Pfizer of its patent on the drug's design.

LONDON: The blueprint for anti-impotence drugs such as Viagra is up for grabs in the UK, where a court last week stripped Pfizer of its patent on the drug's design.

LONDON: The blueprint for anti-impotence drugs such as Viagra is up for grabs in the UK, where a court last week stripped Pfizer of its patent on the drug's design.

The ruling is likely to mean big business for British PR firms, as rival pharmaceutical companies scramble to market their own versions of Viagra, which is worth dollars 1 billion globally each year.

'There's intense competition between the manufacturers,' said Judith Atkins, director of Shandwick International's UK healthcare practice.

'Obviously, competition is going to be good for the industry.'

The ruling by the British Patents Court came after Lilly-Icos - a joint venture of pharmaceutical firms Eli Lilly and Icos - challenged the patent. It found the patent 'invalid for obviousness,' as the formula was in the public domain.

However, the ruling does not affect Pfizer's patent on sildenfanil (the active ingredient in Viagra), which stands until 2013; rather it will allow competitors to make use of the same basic biological design.

For the moment, pharmaceutical firms in the UK aren't allowed to market directly to consumers. Instead they use health advocacy groups and professional organizations, as well as the Internet.





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