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Merck unit sues India's Glenmark over diabetes drug

A view of the Merck & Co. campus in Linden, New Jersey March 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky
A view of the Merck & Co. campus in Linden, New Jersey March 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A unit of U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co sued India's Glenmark Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday for infringing its patent on two diabetes drugs.

The action comes a day after Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG lost a landmark court ruling over patent protection for its cancer treatment Glivec, a decision widely seen as boosting India's generic pharmaceuticals business.

Merck's Indian unit, MSD, holds an Indian patent on sitagliptin, a chemical compound sold under the Januvia and Janumet brands.

Although the patent is yet to expire, Mumbai-based Glenmark confirmed it had launched generic versions of the two drugs.

"Glenmark is a responsible company and has launched the products after due diligence and research," it said in an emailed statement.

MSD filed its case with the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, saying it was disappointed with Glenmark's decision to launch products that directly infringed its intellectual property.

There are about 65 million patients in India being treated for type 2 diabetes, MSD said.

"We believe our patents for Januvia and Janumet are valid and enforceable and will vigorously defend them," MSD said in an email to Reuters.

Januvia costs nearly 1,300 rupees ($23.92) for a month's dose while Glenmark has offered the drug at a discount of about 30 percent, an industry source said.

Neither company would comment on their prices.

($1 = 54.35 rupees)

(Reporting by Kaustubh Kulkarni; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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