NEW YORK (AP) _ A judge refused to immediately block sales of Pfizer's inhalable insulin product Exubera on Thursday, saying the public's need for a ``new and less invasive treatment for diabetes'' outweighed Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk's claims that Pfizer is infringing its patents.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand said Novo's attempts to show irreparable harm in the future for both its current market standing and for future sales of its own inhalable insulin were speculative.
Sand wrote that stopping ``the release of a new and less invasive treatment for diabetes would quite obviously be contrary to the public interest, particularly in the interval between now and trial.''
Novo Nordisk sued Pfizer Inc. earlier this year, saying Exubera infringes on its inventions and would do irreparable harm to its reputation and its sales in a market that serves some of the 21 million U.S. diabetes sufferers.
At a recent hearing, Stephanie Wheeler, a lawyer for Novo Nordisk, told Sand that Exubera violates Novo Nordisk's patents covering insulin delivery to the lungs. Novo Nordisk expects to produce its own inhalable insulin product by 2011.
After Sand ruled, Wheeler said she had no immediate comment.
When she argued before Sand, she said Pfizer planned in the future to market Exubera to diabetes patients who require insulin injections despite its claims that it will only market the product to those who take drugs orally to fight the disease.
Pfizer began marketing the drug through some doctors earlier this year and plans a wider launch of the product through more general practitioners early next year.
Novo Nordisk, which shares nearly half of the market for Americans who require insulin injections to control diabetes, could suffer irreparable damages because studies show as many as 89 percent of people who rely on injections would switch to an inhaled drug if they could, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said 70 percent of Novo Nordisk's revenues stem from insulin injection whereas Pfizer is a diversified pharmaceutical giant that could withstand delaying sales of its product until after a trial on the merits of the patent claims.
Rudolf E. Hutz, a Pfizer lawyer, told Sand at the hearing that Exubera does not violate Novo Nordisk's patents because its inhaler requires ordinary breathing techniques that cannot be covered by a patent.
Shares of Pfizer rose 20 cents to $25.59 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.