A cheaper version of Johnson & Johnson's top-selling drug, the rheumatoid arthritis treatment Remicade, could be available in the U.S. two years early after a federal judge ruled a key patent on the drug invalid.

money (Zoonar RF, ThinkStock)

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said Wednesday it plans to appeal the ruling.

The appeal process could take a year or more. In the meantime, rival drugmaker Pfizer plans to begin selling its nearly identical version of Remicade, called Inflectra. This so-called "biosimilar" drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in early April. Pfizer can legally begin selling Inflectra Oct. 3, though J&J will attempt to block Pfizer's launch through its appeal.

The patent that was ruled invalid would have covered the drug until September 2018.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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