In Trenton, New Jersey today, the federal district court ruled that stents marketed by Boston Scientific Corp., Abbott Laboratories, and Medtronic Inc. do not infringe upon Johnson & Johnson and its partner, Wyeth patents. This was the latest decision involving Johnson & Johnson’s long-running battle with the courts.
The two patents at issue have to do with the drug used on the stents. Pfizer Inc.’s Wyeth manufactures the drug called sirolimus and licenses it to Johnson & Johnson’s Cordis unit. Sirolimus is used on Johnson & Johnson’s Cypher stent (the first drug-eluting stent approved in the United States), Boston Scientific’s Promus stent, Abbott’s Xience (essentially the same stent), as well as Medtronic’s Endeavor, which all use derivatives of sirolimus.
Sirolimus belongs to a group of medicines known as immunosuppressive agents. It is used to lower the body’s natural immunity in patients who receive kidney transplants. When a patient receives an organ transplant, the body’s white blood cells will try to get rid of, or “reject”, the transplanted organ. Sirolimus works by preventing the white blood cells from getting rid of the transplanted organ. Sirolimus is a very strong medicine. It can cause side effects that can be very serious, such as kidney problems, and may also reduce the body’s ability to fight infections.
Johnson & Johnson, which pioneered the multi-billion dollar stent industry, announced in June that it was discontinuing stent sales at the beginning of this year, following years of declining sales and shares. In 2010, Boston Scientific agreed to pay Johnson & Johnson $1.73 billion to settle other patent lawsuits between the companies regarding the stent battle.
The U.S. District Court in New Jersey ruled that the patents brought by Johnson & Johnson in lawsuits were invalid. Johnson & Johnson said it plans to appeal this ruling and declined commenting on financial specifics regarding the ruling.
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