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Prozac could face cheaper, generic competition as early as next month following a federal appeals court ruling Wednesday. Eli Lilly and Co., based in Indianapolis, Ind., had hoped to keep its patent on the blockbuster antidepressant through 2003, but a federal appeals court in Washington refused to reconsider its ruling against the pharmaceutical company. The court previously found that Lilly had improperly double-patented Prozac to extend its exclusive control over the drug, which is known generically as fluoxetine. Barr Laboratories Inc., which has been battling Lilly over the Prozac patent since 1996, plans to put a generic version on the market in August. Prozac had worldwide sales of $2.6 billion last year and was one of Lilly’s best-selling drugs, accounting for about one-quarter of the company’s sales. Lilly plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We still feel it’s very valid, but at this stage of the appeal we realize that it will be difficult to get the Supreme Court to consider it,” company spokeswoman Terra Fox said Wednesday. “For business planning purposes we continue to operate under the assumption that fluoxetine will enter the generic market on Aug. 3.” Prozac costs about $2.60 a day. Bill McKee, Barr chief financial officer, would not say how much the generic would cost, but “we would expect that when our more affordable version hits the market, consumers will save tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars.” In afternoon trading, Lilly was up $1.70 to close at $76.75 on the New York Stock Exchange, where Barr Labs jumped $5.75 to $79.50. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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