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Glaxosmithkline Plc (GSK) lost a patent case on its biggest-selling asthma drug in the London high court, paving way for generic versions to take a bite out of its business in the UK.

India's Cipla, US-based Ivax Corp and two other generic firms had challenged a key patent on Seretide - also known as Advair - which expires in 2013 on the grounds of obviousness. Justice Pumfrey said the claimants' case was overwhelmingly strong.
A spokesman for Europe's biggest drug-maker said it was considering an appeal, as shares in the group eased to £10.6 by 1230 GMT after touching a year-low of 10.44.

Seretide/ Advair was GSK's top-selling product in 2003, with global sales of £2.2 billion ($4.03 billion). Around 6% of those revenues were generated in Britain.

Given the relatively small size of the British market, the financial impact of the defeat will be limited, but industry analysts believe it could damage sentiment and raise fears about patent threats in other markets. Analysts at JP Morgan calculate that loss of UK patent protection could slice some 1.2% off the group's 2008 earnings per share.

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