Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company and Ranbaxy Laboratories, India's top drug maker by sales have been sued in the US over holding back a generic version of Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor in the US and then fixing its price.
Eleven California pharmacies filed a lawsuit on 7 November in the US District Court in San Francisco asking the court to annul Pfizer's patents for Lipitor as well as its exclusive deal with Ranbaxy's US subsidiary to produce a generic version of the drug.
The pharmacies allege that both companies entered into a patent settlement deal that kept generic version of Pfizer's $10-billion-a-year cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor off the market in the US in exchange for the earlier launch of the generic drug in overseas markets.
The patent settlement deal between Pfizer and Daiichi Sankyo-owned Ranbaxy was a result from a patent infringement dispute between the two companies.
The settlement arrived in June 2008, provided Ranbaxy with licenses to all the patents it needs to make the generic version of Lipitor and manufacture and launch it prior to the expiration of the patents. (See: Pfizer and Ranbaxy settle global Lipitor patent litigation)
However under the terms of the agreement, Ranbaxy agreed to delay marketing the generic versions in the US till 30 November 2011, instead of launching it between March 2010 and June 2011.