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The Associated Press May 30, 2012, 08:24AM ET

Ahead of the Bell: Patent defense may aid Amarin

Another pharmaceutical company's successful defense of a U.S. patent on a blood treatment drug pushed shares of Amarin higher in premarket trading Wednesday as it bodes well for one of its products, which also faces potential challenges from generics.

The Norwegian drug developer Pronova said Tuesday that a federal court has upheld the validity of some patents protecting its heart medication Lovaza from generic competition in the U.S. market. Lovaza is sold in the United States and Puerto Rico by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

Pronova said the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware found that its patent claims were valid and enforceable and would be infringed by generic drugmakers Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Par Pharmaceutical Inc. One of the patents expires in March 2013 and another in April 2017.

Pronova had filed patent infringement litigation against Teva and Par in April 2009.

The successful patent defense will relieve Amarin investor worries that its potential treatment, AMR101, would face cheaper generic competition immediately after it launched, Jefferies analyst Thomas Wei said in a research note.

AMR101 is designed to treat high levels of triglycerides, or fats in the blood. The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to make a decision on the drug by July 26. If approved, it will be the first marketed product for Amarin, which is based in Ireland.

The ruling also improves the likelihood that an AMR101 patent would prevail if challenged and reduces the chance that generic drugmakers challenge that patent, Citi analyst John Boris said in a separate note.

Boris has said sales of AMR101 could reach surpass $2 billion annually and it could become the leading triglyceride-lowering drug, surpassing Lovaza and Abbott Laboratories Inc.'s drugs Tricor and Trilipix.

Shares of Amarin Corp. rose 1.5 percent, or 18 cents, to $12.45 before the market opened, after spiking 6 percent Tuesday.

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