Marion Merrell Dow Inc. and Alza Corp. said Friday that a U.S.District Court in Newark, N.J., has denied a request by Ciba-Geigy Corp. for a preliminary injunction to prevent sales ofAlza's Nicoderm transdermal nicotine patch.

The ruling leaves both MMD, Alza's marketing partner, andCiba-Geigy free to market their respective patches. The patchesare the only ones with Food and Drug Administrationmarketing approval.

Among the five suits between companies jockeying for marketposition, Ciba-Geigy ALLEGES patent infringement byAlza/MMD and is seeking to invalidate patents assigned to ElanCorp. plc and its marketing partner, American Cyanamid Co.

Elan, whose patch hasn't been approved, also failed last weekto win a temporary restraining order against Nicoderm in itssuit against Alza of Palo Alto, Calif., and MMD of Kansas City,Mo.

In denying the motion, a U.S. District Court judge in SanFrancisco ruled that nicotine formulations in Elan's patent, No.4,943,435, have the same function as claims in an earlierpatent, No. 4,758,434, that was assigned to Hercon LaboratoriesCorp. of South Plainfield, N.J., in 1988.

The judge also ruled that flux rates in the Elan patent fallwithin the same limits as the '434 patent. But Donald Panoz,Elan's president and chief executive, told BioWorld that thecompany's patent isn't jeopardized by the '434 patent becausethe two technologies perform differently.

The '434 patent technology leads to nicotine availability in abell-shaped curve, Panoz said, while availability via the Elantechnology is described by a straight line.

On the other hand, said Panoz, "the results we have seen for theAlza product are characterized by a straight line." He said theIrish company, whose U.S. operations are based in Gainesville,Ga., would continue to pursue its claims at trial of the Alza suit.

Elan also has sued Ciba-Geigy, as well as Cygnus TherapeuticSystems Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., the other nicotine patchdeveloper.

Hercon Laboratories declined to reveal whether it had anydevelopment plans for its patent.

Alza shares (AMEX:AZA) rose 63 cents to $46 on Friday. Elan(AMEX:ELN) dropped $1.75 to $42.63.

Cygnus (NASDAQ:CYGN),was up 50 cents at $18.25.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.