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Eli Lilly defeats challenge to Alimta cancer drug patent

Oct 5 (Reuters) - A federal patent review board on Thursday rejected a challenge to a patent covering Eli Lilly and Co's Alimta drug to treat some lung cancers and mesothelioma.

The U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board said Neptune Generics LLC and other companies failed to show it was more likely than not that 22 claims underlying the Lilly patent could not be patented.

Alimta is Lilly's third biggest-selling drug, accounting for $2.28 billion of the Indianapolis-based company's $21.22 billion of revenue last year, a regulatory filing shows. Lilly has said it begins losing patent protection in 2021.

Lawyers for Neptune did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Michael Harrington, Lilly's general counsel, in a statement said the company was pleased with the ruling, and that its "significant scientific research" justified patent protection, "which has been confirmed in every validity challenge to date."

Shares of Lilly closed up 69 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $87.65. They had traded as much as 2.4 percent higher after the ruling was released.

Issued in 2010, the so-called vitamin regimen patent that was challenged addresses methods of administering Alimta following pretreatment with folic acid and Vitamin B12, to reduce the drug's toxicity in patients.

Lilly has faced several legal challenges to its right to avoid generic competition for Alimta, whose chemical name is pemetrexed.

It has said its vitamin regimen patents provide patent protection for Alimta through June 2021 in Japan and large European countries, and through May 2022 in the United States. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)