In a potentially promising sign for Western drugmakers, Merck ($MRK) scored a victory in its patent battle with India’s Glenmark Pharmaceuticals over copycats of the drugmaker’s diabetes meds Januvia and Janumet. India’s highest court has blocked the generics company from marketing its cheap versions of the drugs in the country.
The nation’s Supreme Court will allow Glenmark to continue to sell its existing inventory but put the kibosh on future sales of its Januvia and Janumet generics in India, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters after a court hearing on Friday.
The move comes a little more than two years after Merck slapped the Indian generics maker with a patent suit regarding premature generic versions of its diabetes blockbusters. In April 2013, Glenmark officials said the company would sell its versions of Januvia and Janumet, dubbed Zita and Zita Met, at a 20% discount to Merck’s price of about 1,200 rupees per month, or $22. The generics are counted among the top-selling diabetes treatments in India.
Glenmark won an initial battle when the Supreme Court told the company it could continue to sell its knockoffs despite the impending suit. Then earlier this year India’s Supreme Court granted Merck an injunction against Glenmark, preventing it from marketing a generic of Januvia as the patent case continued to play out in court.
The court’s latest decision stands in contrast to its usual rulings, which traditionally favor generics companies over Western drugmakers. In 2013, Novartis ($NVS) lost a landmark decision in India for a patent on its cancer drug Glivec. And Bayerand Pfizer ($PFE) also felt the sting of generic copycats after India’s highest court allowed companies to market cheap versions of the companies’ top-selling meds. But tides are changing in the country after the election of pro business Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, and Western drugmakers are hopeful Modi will shift the country away from its populist attitude on patents.
Meanwhile, Glenmark continues to forge ahead with its plans to generate international growth. The company earlier this year said it was looking for global partners to market 7 molecules for various treatments in development, padding revenues and helping the generics maker recoup from $200 million in R&D expenses over 9 years. The 7 molecules are already out licensed and have generated $217 million in upfront and milestone payments so far, Glenn Saldanha, Glenmark’s chairman and managing director, said at the time.