HOUSTON It seems Bristol-Myers Squibb's novel patent strategy could prove effective in protecting its marketing exclusivity for the blockbuster anxiety drug BuSpar, even though its patent on the drug has expired.

Bristol-Myers Squibb obtained a new patent at the end of 2000, claiming the physiologically active substances associated with BuSpar use are actually the human metabolites of the drug. The new patent would block generic competition to BuSpar for its 20-year term. Generic drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals has contested this, filing a complaint with the US Food and Drug Administration.

On 11 January, a US court said the dispute should be settled in a court of law and not by the FDA. A Watson Pharmaceuticals spokesperson said Watson would challenge the patent in court. This is a lengthy process that could take years. In the meantime, the patent remains in force and BMS retains marketing exclusivity for the...

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