Bayer AG says it's seeking meeting with Canadian officials over decision to override Cipro patent

Friday, October 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Canada's decision to override a patent on the anti-anthrax drug Cipro angered officials with German drugmaker Bayer AG, who said Friday they were seeking talks with the country's ministry of health.

Canadian health officials said Thursday they would order stocks of the antibiotic from a Canadian manufacturer despite Bayer's patent on the antibiotic, which runs out in late 2003.

Bayer spokeswoman Christina Sehnert did not comment directly on the Canadian move, saying only, ``we will meet with the ministry of health as soon as possible to discuss this matter.''

U.S. officials have said they have the right to override Bayer's patent, too, but haven't done so. Bayer has promised to triple production of the drug and says it can meet the U.S. government's needs.

Anthrax attacks and the accompanying scare in the United States have proved a mixed blessing for Bayer. Cipro was Bayer's No. 1 seller even before the attack, with $1.6 billion in sales last year.

The surge in interest has led to calls for the government to let other companies start making the drug so it can be stockpiled in case there is a major bioterrorism attack.

Bayer's pharmaceutical division has been in trouble since the withdrawal of Baycol, its cholesterol-lowering drug, after reports it was associated with the deaths of more than 50 patients worldwide. Baycol, sometimes marketed as Lipobay, was the company's No. 3 drug and sales were expected to reach $890 million this year.

Bayer says there's no way increased sales of Cipro can make up for losing Baycol. One reason is that the company does not make as much per tablet on its bulk sales to governments as it does selling drugs through pharmacies.