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15-06-2012 23:53:00

Merck Loses Nasonex Patent Suit; Says Likely to Appeal

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By Ben Fox Rubin

Drug maker Merck & Co. (MRK) said a U.S. district court ruled against it in a patent-infringement suit involving Apotex Inc.

In 2009, Merck filed the suit in New Jersey in an effort to block Apotex, a Canadian generic drug manufacturer, from selling a generic copy of Merck's blockbuster allergy drug Nasonex before U.S. patent protection expires.

Apotex had challenged the validity of the U.S. patent covering Nasonex. Merck said its patent for Nasonex is due to expire in 2018.

Bruce N. Kuhlik, Merck's general counsel, said his company was pleased the court ruled that its patent on Nasonex is valid, but was disappointed the court said the patent wasn't infringed by Apotex's product.

"Today's decision reflects just one step in the lengthy patent litigation process, and we plan to review all of our options, including a likely appeal of the decision," Mr. Kuhlik said.

Merck, like its rivals, has been cutting costs as part of an effort to soften the hit from increased generic competition. The company's top-selling allergy and asthma medication Singulair loses patent exclusivity in August and the ripple-effect from generic versions of rival Pfizer Inc.'s (PFE) cholesterol fighter Lipitor have contributed to a decline in sales of Merck's anticholesterol drug Vytorin.

In April, Merck said its first-quarter earnings rose 67% as the drug maker's cost controls helped offset slower-than-expected sales growth.

Shares closed Friday at $38.94 and were down 14 cents after hours. The stock is up 3.3% year-to-date.

Write to Ben Fox Rubin at ben.rubin@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 15, 2012 17:53 ET (21:53 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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