Intended for healthcare professionals


Pfizer could owe NHS £500m for extending pregabalin patent for pain

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 15 November 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4856
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

The UK Supreme Court has thrown out an appeal by the drug company Pfizer over its blockbuster drug pregabalin (Lyrica).

The court’s ruling that Pfizer’s subsidiary Warner-Lambert was not entitled to a patent that it used to discourage competition from generic manufacturers and to extend the life of branded pregabalin for two years will have important implications for the drug industry and for the NHS, which may be able to claim back from Pfizer more than £500m that it would have saved if the company had not sought to obstruct the cheaper generic drugs.

Pregabalin was originally licensed for epilepsy, with the patent due to run out in 2013. Pfizer had meanwhile obtained a secondary patent, valid beyond the life of the original one, covering neuropathic pain. This represented a larger market, and the drug became a big success, with annual sales of $5bn.

As the expiry …

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