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UK Supreme Court rules in favour of Servier in NHS patent lawsuit

The NHS alleged that the French pharma company tried to block sales of generics versions of its drug Coversyl

The UK Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favour of French pharma company Servier over a decade-long patent case filed by the NHS regarding the hypertension drug Coversyl.

The NHS alleged that in obtaining, defending and enforcing its patent for Coversyl (perindopril), Servier blocked sales of generic versions of the drug, meaning the health service had to pay higher prices.

Although the patent on Coversyl expired in 2001, the first generic version of the drug only entered the market in 2007. In its lawsuit, the NHS said that it would have saved millions if it could have accessed cheaper, generic versions of the drug, which it alleged it could not do as a direct result of Servier’s actions.

The focus of the lawsuit is a patent granted in 2004 relating to the alpha crystalline form of perindopril arginine – in 2007, it was ruled that the patent lacked novelty after Servier obtained a court injunction to prevent generic sales of the drug in the UK. The patent was then revoked in 2009.

The NHS initially sued Servier in 2001, accusing Servier of deceiving the European Patent Office (EPO) in order to uphold the patent, causing financial loss, for which it sought €200m in damages.

The UK Supreme Court ruling comes as a win for Servier after the French pharma company was found guilty of manslaughter and fraud in a ‘landmark’ trial over its weight loss drug Mediator (benfluorex) in March.

First launched in 1976, Mediator was not taken off the market in France until 2009, several years after being withdrawn from other European countries, including Spain in 2003 and Italy in 2004.

By then, it had caused the deaths of somewhere between 500 and 2,000 people, according to prosecutors, who levelled charges against 21 defendants, including the company, the French medicines regulatory authority (ANSM) and 14 individuals.

As a result, the court fined Servier a substantial €2.7m and also issued a suspended four-year prison sentence to Jean-Philippe Seta, former deputy chairman of the pharma company.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

5th July 2021

From: Sales, Regulatory

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