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Patent Which Underpins Best-Selling Breast Cancer Drug Invalid

A patent which underpins an immensely successful drug used in the treatment of aggressive breast cancer has been declared invalid by the High Court on the basis that the invention it described was ‘obvious’ in the light of pre-existing research.

The patent related to the use of a particular type of antibody in combination with chemotherapy agents derived from yew plants. It was one of a number of patents which protected a product which was in use worldwide as a standard treatment for breast cancer, extending patients’ lives with few side effects.

The patent, owned by a multinational biotechnology company, came under attack by a pharmaceuticals company which wanted to market a similar drug. In declaring the patent invalid, the Court found that the invention described, whilst novel in its use to treat human patients, was obvious in the light of a learned article which was published a few months before the patent’s priority date.