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Judgement reserved in long-running lawsuit between Lasco and Pfizer

  • Case nearing an end after 15 years of litigation

After 15 years of litigation, the long-running copyright case between Lasco Distributors and international pharmaceutical company, Pfizer is nearing an end as the Jamaican Court of Appeal has reserved judgement in the matter.

The court reserved judgement last week having heard one week of legal arguments from attorneys from both sides. Lasco brought the case against Pfizer in 2005 seeking damages for Pfizer preventing it and another Jamaican company, Medimpex, from selling a generic form of the hypertension drug Norvasc.

The judgement will be delivered at a date to be advised by the Registrar of the Court of Appeal. Lasco’s legal team had prepared 10 volumes of legal arguments which formed the basis of its appeal against the November 2017 Supreme Court ruling awarding the company $273 million in damages.

The basis of the appeal was that the award was too small in comparison to other awards in cases of similar nature.  Lasco’s Chief Legal Officer, Vincent Chen, told shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting last year that Lasco should succeed in its appeal for a bigger award based on a similar case in Britain, where the claimant was awarded 146 million British pounds.

Pfizer said the Jamaican firms violated its patent when they started selling generic versions of Norvasc in the early 2000s.

“We should get a substantial amount if we apply the current principles of that case,” Chin reasoned. Medimpex, which was a party to the lawsuit, was awarded $5.3 million in relation to stocks that it had to destroy as a result of the court battle with Pfizer.

The matter arose from an injunction granted to Pfizer in 2005, which remained in effect until 2012 when the United Kingdom-based Privy Council upheld rulings by the local courts in favour of Lasco and Medimpex. Pfizer had contended that the Jamaican firms violated its patent when they started selling generic versions of Norvasc in the early 2000s.

(Photo: wsj.com)

Lasco and Medimpex challenged the matter in court and won. The local companies claimed that they suffered damages when they were barred by the court order from distributing Norvasc. Lasco had asked the court to award it US$490 million in damages, but Pfizer countered saying Lasco should be paid no more than US$518,000 for the period it was not allowed to sell the drug.

For its part, Medimpex demanded US$11.5 million in damages. However, Pfizer countered saying it should not pay out more than US$68,000 to Medimpex. 

In November 2017, Supreme Court judge Justice, Vivene Harris awarded special damages to the local firms but Lasco is appealing her ruling of $273 million on the basis that it should have been awarded much more.