Alcon Sues Apotex to Block Sales of Generic Eye-Allergy Drug

apotex incBloomberg -- Alcon Inc., the world's largest eye- care company, sued Apotex Inc. to keep it from selling a generic version of the eye-allergy drug Patanol.

Apotex is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to sell a copy of the treatment, whose key ingredient is olopatadine hydrochloride. Alcon, a Swiss company, and its Japanese partner Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. claim in a suit filed yesterday in Indianapolis the generic version would infringe a patent expiring in 2015. Patanol first got FDA approval in 1996.

Patanol is the top-seller in the U.S. for the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis, a cause of itching, redness and tearing. The U.S. market for eye-allergy treatments was $460 million last year, Alcon said in its annual report, without disclosing how much of that was in Alcon sales.

The company asked for a court ruling to block approval of the Apotex application until the patent expires.

Hunenberg, Switzerland-based Alcon is 75 percent owned by Nestle SA, the world's biggest food company. Alcon shares rose 30 cents to $103.05 at 1:35 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They are down 20 percent this year.

Steve Giuli, a spokesman for Weston, Ontario-based Apotex, had no immediate comment on the suit.

The case is Alcon Manufacturing Ltd. v. Apotex Inc., 06cv1642, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (Indianapolis).

source - Bloomberg