Elsewhere, I will be discussing an interesting parallel to the discovery of the buckyball (aka, buckminsterfullerene, C60), wherein the discoverers merely repeated the experiment of prior workers, obtained basically the same experimental results, but had a quite different interpretation.
For the moment, note the business and human consequences of the patent decision.
From the Fairfield County (CT) Business Journal:
With Stamford-based Purdue Pharma L P. losing an appeal in federal court to protect its patent on the brand-name pain medication OxyContin, more than 1,000 of its workers will feel the ache.
The drug manufacturer said it would layoff half of its U.S. work force in the next few weeks. The company employs 720 people in Stamford and 150 at a facility in nearby Ardsley, N.Y., but how many local employees may lose jobs was unclear.
James W. Heins, Purdue's director of public affairs, said information on how those facilities would be impacted was not yet available.
"The 50 percent reduction will be across the company's total U.S work force of 2,154 people, but it won't necessarily affect half of the Stamford workers," he added.
The cuts are in response to the expected impact on the company's revenues when competitors begin to sell generic alternatives to the drug for as little as one-third the price.
On June 7, a panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court's decision in January 2004 that certain Purdue's patents for OxyContin tablets could no longer be enforced.
The appeals court supported an earlier ruling that said the company misled the patent office in its application by claiming the drug was unique because it was effective in very low dosages. The judges ruled that Purdue had no clinical evidence to support that claim before the patents were issued.
Following the decision, Endo Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pa., announced that it would immediately launch generic versions of all four strengths of OxyContin.
In a written statement, Purdue Pharma said it believes its patents were properly obtained and are enforceable. The company will seek a rehearing of this decision by all 12 appellate court judges.
"In our opinion, and that of our legal advisers, this decision is contrary to principles of patent law established by the Federal Circuit as well as by the Supreme Court of the United States," Howard Udell, executive vice president and chief legal officer at Purdue, said in the statement.
HQ could be sold
According to Heins, Purdue's headquarters houses employees in marketing, medical affairs, information technology, general administration, law, human resources and some in clinical development.
He acknowledged that the company is "exploring a number of options" regarding the headquarters. He said the company plans to stay in Stamford, but declined to give details when asked if Purdue would sell the building or lease portions of it.
Purdue Pharma and Purdue Frederick Co. purchased One Stamford Forum, the distinctive tiered office tower near I-95, from GTE in 2000.
Some local commercial real estate brokers speculated the company could sell the building to take advantage of the recent trend of local office properties fetching top dollars from foreign investment groups. The company could potentially lease back part of the building since the new owner would want tenants in the building.
Back to the drawing board
"While we are disappointed with this outcome, we have taken certain precautionary steps to prepare for the possibility of such a decision," president and chief executive officer Michael Friedman said in a statement. "We intend to continue the production and sale of our branded OxyContin product line. Additionally, as part of our contingency planning, we have entered into an agreement with IVAX Pharmaceuticals that allows IVAX to distribute authorized generic versions of OxyContin tablets in all four strengths. This will enable Purdue to introduce a quality product in the growing generic segment of the $2 billion oxycodone extended-release product category."
Immediately after that announcement, Endo said it would sue to prevent Purdue Pharma from authorizing its own lower-cost version.
Purdue said it is actively engaged in discussions with several other pharmaceutical companies to add other medications to its product portfolio.
"We're going to be smaller, but we are going to remain a viable company and we plan to emerge even stronger in a couple of years," noted Heins, who said the company has ongoing research and development efforts, but he could not discuss those details.