United Therapeutics Soars 28.5% on Drug Patent Ruling


United Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:UTHR) shares soared 28.5 percent on Friday after the company won a court ruling in a patent dispute that blocks Novartis AG from selling a generic version of its best-selling Remodulin hypertension drug.

Shares of United Therapeutics closed up $26.14 at $117.83 on the Nasdaq, boosting the company's market value by about $1.24 billion to $5.57 billion. The shares had earlier risen to a record $118.76.

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U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan in Trenton, New Jersey said Novartis' Sandoz unit cannot market a generic version of Remodulin, or treprostinil, until October 2017, when United Therapeutics' so-called '117 patent expires.

The drug, which treats high blood pressure, was first approved in the United States in May 2002.

Analysts had said a ruling for Novartis could have enabled Sandoz to launch its generic drug as soon as October of this year, causing Remodulin sales to drop about 10 percent.

Sheridan said Sandoz did not sufficiently prove that the '117 patent was invalid. He also said it was more likely than not that generic sales by Sandoz would infringe the patent.

The judge also upheld the validity of United Therapeutics' '007 patent related to Remodulin, but said Sandoz's product would not infringe it.

Sheridan's 93-page decision runs more than 32,000 words, including notes and citations.

Sandoz had applied with U.S. regulators in December 2011 to sell its product. United Therapeutics sued three months later.

Julie Masow, a Novartis spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics' chief executive, said she is pleased with the ruling on the '117 patent. The company may appeal the ruling on the '007 patent.

United Therapeutics is based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Novartis is based in Basel, Switzerland, and has offices in East Hanover, New Jersey.

Net revenue from Remodulin totaled $274.3 million in the first half of 2014, accounting for 45 percent of overall product sales, United Therapeutics said in a regulatory filing. Revenue from Remodulin rose 15 percent from a year earlier.

"Remodulin is undisputedly a commercial success that has had a tremendous impact on United Therapeutics' total revenues, revenue growth, financial performance, and market capitalization," Sheridan wrote. "Without the claimed features of the '117 patent, Remodulin would not be commercially viable."

The case is United Therapeutics Corp v. Sandoz Inc, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, Nos. 12-01617, 13-00316.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Grant McCool)