WASHINGTON--The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of Burroughs-Wellcome, the manufacturer of zidovudine(Drug information on zidovudine) (Retrovir or AZT), on five of six patents that had been challenged by two pharmaceutical companies hoping to win the right to produce a generic version of the drug. The ruling should provide the company with a monopoly on zidovudine until the year 2005.
The plaintiffs had claimed that Burroughs-Wellcome scientists were not the sole inventors of the drug and that the patent should be shared with the NIH, thus giving the government the right to license the agent to other manufacturers.
The court held, however, that the Burroughs-Wellcome scientists were the sole inventors, since they were the first to isolate the agent. The NIH scientists' contribution of a method of assessing the drug's therapeutic potential did not qualify them to be considered inventors of the drugs, the court ruled.