bluepills.jpgChinese police recently busted
an underground factory making fake Viagra pills, showing that the
ingenuity of China's piracy industry now stretches far beyond cheap
Louis Vuitton bags, mobile phones and DVDs.

According to Xinhua, police found nearly 2,000 fake copies of the
blue pills in a factory in eastern Beijing, along with machines,
packing materials and trademark logos, together worth an estimated 2.5m
yuan.

The raid came just days after US pharma giant Pfizer, the maker of
the wonder drug, lost a court battle to prevent a Chinese rival,
Welman, using one of the Chinese names for the drug.

Pfizer sells Viagra in China as “Wan Ai Ke,” but argued that it is
widely known as “Wei Ge,” which means “Mighty Brother”. This is the
same name that Welman has been using for its anti-impotence drug since
1998, when it first registered the name. Pfizer gained its Chinese
patent for Viagra in 2001.

The US giant won a trademark suit versus Welman, over the shape of
the rhomboid blue pills at the end of last year, and prior to that, it
successfully sued Welman over the active ingredient used in its drug.

Pfizer's dogged pursuit of Welman through the courts shows that even
if western firms are now increasingly likely to win IPR battles in
Chinese courts, they can still end up losing the war.

Pfizer has filed an appeal against the decision.

Elsewhere on the pharma front:

  • London-listed Phynova Group is
    to work with the Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine to
    develop drugs for the treatment of cancer. Phynova develops medicines
    from Chinese botanical drugs and recently got its first candidate drug,
    for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, approved for clinical trials
    by the FDA of the US. the loss-making company sees big potential in
    Chinese medicine and has sufficient funds to carry out it development
    programme into 2008.

  • Nasdaq-listed Beijing Med-Pharm and Alliance Boots, the UK-based healthcare group, have formed a 20:80 JV to acquire 50% of Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Corporation,
    the third largest pharma wholesaler in China. The deal gives BMP a
    bigger footprint with distribution operations in Beijing, Shanghai and
    now Guangzhou. It also gives it a heavyweight western partner, Alliance
    Boots, which in return gets a low-risk strategy to enter China.

  • Sinclair Pharm, a distributor listed on the London stock exchange, has signed its first marketing agreement for China(pdf),
    which will see its flagship mouth ulcer product, Aloclair, sold there
    and in other Asian nations by Dalian-based Auroren Pharmaceuticals.
    China's market for OTC healthcare products is growing at around 7.8% a
    year


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