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The David-versus-Goliath battle for the lucrative anti-cholesterol drug market has taken an unusual judicial turn, with the Court of Appeals reversing itself and allowing the local United Laboratories to market a generic version of the popular anti-cholesterol drug, Lipitor.
Saying the previous appellate division had "overlooked certain legal and factual matters," a five-member "Special Former Special Fourteenth Division" late last month rescinded a June 2011 decision ordering a Makati court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction on behalf of multinationals Warner Lambert and Pfizer.
The questioned writ would have prevented Unilab's cardiovascular division Therapharma from engaging in manufacturing and selling its version of the cholesterol-lowering atorvastatin calcium drug, Avamax, while the patent infringement and damage case was ongoing at the Makati Regional Trial Court.
Notwithstanding the June 2011 order for Makati RTC Judge Joselito Villarosa to issue the writ, the preliminary injunction was never handed down while Unilab's counsel, CVC Law, fought its way through a motion for reconsideration.
Pfizer, in turn, was represented by former Justice secretary Ramon Esguerra, who had emerged during the impeachment hearings as a key counsel for Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Except for Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio, two other CA justices who had signed the previous decision, Sesinando Villon and Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, have been made members of the enlarged review division, along with Edwin Sorongon, Francisco Acosta and Samuel Gaerlan.
Villon, the previous chairman, was also retained chairman of the bigger division.
The five justices, in their decision dated July 23, 2012, also took back the earlier appellate pronouncement that the Makati judge had been "attended with grave abuse of discretion" in rejecting the writ prayed for by Pfizer and Warner Lambert.
But the five stopped short of making any finding on the infringement case, saying it was still pending before the same Judge Villarosa.
Pfizer filed the infringement case in October 2009, even though it admitted that the local patent for Lipitor only had more three years to run until its expiry this year.
Despite being shut out of the Mercury Drug store chain because of the pending lawsuit, generics like Avamax had propelled Therapharma into becoming the country's biggest cardiovascular drug company in the country, grossing P3 billion in 2010 alone.
Avamax retails for P26.25 for a 10-mg a tablet, as against P34.35 for Lipitor.
At the time of its 2009 filing, Pfizer projected it could lose around P200 million a year in sales for its top-selling Lipitor should Avamax or other similar generics enter the market.
Heard through the grapevine
There is a spirited email campaign going on among members of the Valle Verde Country Club to organize an entirely new slate and overthrow the club's board, which has been in a holdover capacity for 16 long years since 1996.
The present board has managed to perpetuate itself in power due to the perennial lack of quorum during the membership meeting, an entitlement that apparently would end this year should enough warm bodies attend this coming September 29 meeting.