The case of Abbott Laboratories' (ABT) cholesterol drug TriCor is quite interesting. The drug has been a blockbuster, and it has been under patent protection for decades. That's right, decades. Now, Abbott has managed to seal a deal with generic-drug maker Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries (TEVA) that would stave off generic competition for TriCor -- yet again -- until March 2011 at least.
How did Abbott manage to keep TriCor under patent protection all these years? The story begins back in the 1960s, when the drug was discovered by the French company Fournier. It began selling the product in Europe in 1975, and Abbott licensed it in 1998. The drug's underlying patent had expired by that time, but Abbott, which earns more than $1 billion in annual sales from the drug, found a way to patent it again ... and again ... and again.