The Medical University of South Carolina is taking on a drug manufacturing giant in a federal lawsuit that alleges the company is ripping off an MUSC scientist's intellectual property.

MUSC's Foundation for Research Development and Charleston Medical Therapeutics filed the suit in federal court in mid-December against the Delaware-based AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for patent infringement.

The plaintiffs argue in court papers that AstraZeneca should not be allowed to market and sell Crestor as a medication to treat patients with vascular inflammation without a history or risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Crestor, a statin, is a brand name drug used to treat high cholesterol.

The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Crestor to treat vascular inflammation - even for patients without a history of heart disease - in 2010.

The lawsuit alleges that the FDA approval infringes on a patent held by Dr. Inderjit Singh, an MUSC scientist, which was approved in August. It's called "Use of Statins to Inhibit Inflammation and Vascular Disease," and is continuation of a "virtually identical" patent that Singh first obtained in 2003, according to the court records.

"We intend to vigorously defend against these allegations," said AstraZeneca spokesman Ray Parisi.

The Charleston-based firm Motley Rice is representing the plaintiffs in this case. A call placed to the law firm was not returned Monday.

AstraZeneca must file a response to the complaint by Jan. 15.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.