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UK court backs Teva rival to AstraZeneca lung drug

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Teva Pharmaceutical Industries said Britain's High Court had handed down a positive judgment regarding its case against a patent for AstraZeneca's Symbicort lung drug.

Israel-based Teva said it had already launched its dry powder inhaler, DuoResp Spiromax, in Britain on Monday - before the court ruling - but the verdict minimized any risks associated with the launch.

AstraZeneca said in a statement it disagreed with the ruling and would seek leave to appeal.

Teva's version of the drug has already been launched in Germany, Denmark and Portugal and the British court ruling will facilitate its sale in other European markets, the Israeli company said on Wednesday.

A spokesman added the inhaler would be a "significant" product for the company, but did not give any numbers.

Symbicort is AstraZeneca's third-biggest selling drug, with worldwide sales of just under $1.9 billion in the first half of 2014.

While Teva's product uses the same active ingredients as Symbicort, formoterol and budesonide, the inhalers differ in design.

AstraZeneca's Turbuhaler device has been granted a patent protecting it until 2019 in Europe and the company hopes this will help it retain sales in the face of cheaper generics, since doctors may be reluctant to switch patients to other devices.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Pravin Char)

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