Posted by: Tony Carson | 4 October, 2007

Corporate sleaze and greed

When can the conduct of corporations be deemed simply disgraceful, so far beneath the conduct of civility that the conduct constitutes a form or moral negligence?

This repulsive case shows the sick side of corporations, not only in the steps they will take to find an advantage but at the punitive prices they will charge us in the process:

Why would a company argue in court that its medical product is dangerous, even as it plays down the risks in public?

Johnson & Johnson did just that recently as part of its long battle for supremacy in cardiac stents. Its lawyers told a federal judge in Delaware that because medical studies had linked the company’s drug-coated Cypher stent to blood clots, it could not have infringed a competitor’s patent.

How so? Because, the lawyers said, the patent in question, held by Boston Scientific, claimed that the coating did not cause clots.

That reasoning — in essence, our product isn’t covered by Boston Scientific’s patent because our product is a health hazard — did not impress Judge Sue L. Robinson, who last week affirmed a jury’s patent infringement verdict against the Cypher.

But the argument of the lawyers, so at odds with Johnson & Johnson’s public efforts to depict Cypher as exceptionally safe, indicates just how tortured logic can become in the industry’s long, multipronged patent war over stents — the tiny mesh cylinders inserted in blood vessels to keep them propped open after blockages are cleared.

Since coronary artery stents were first marketed in the United States in 1994, they have grown into a $6.5 billion worldwide business in which profit margins can approach 80 percent. Because of the money at stake and the complexity of the products, the stent business is an unusually litigious field, with court cases in this country and abroad embroiling all the industry’s major players and many smaller ones.

“About $24 billion of these coronary stents have been sold since they went on the market in the United States, with pretty much every dollar attached to one of these cases,” said Matthew Dodds, a Citigroup analyst. “It looks like billions of dollars of profits are at stake.”

The full NY Times article is here: Stent Makers Mired in Lawsuits Over Patents

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