Fuzzy Patent Logic

Over the past week, month, year (you name it!), we’ve read too much about the trials and tribulations of patent litigation. The latest, involving Pfizer and Roche, has the latter suing Pfizer for infringing on upwards of 40 Roche patents in Pfizer’s development of a trastuzumab biosimilar. This is pretty common these days, and even the number of patents involved fails to surprise. Yet, other competitors may reach the market before Pfizer; it has not yet filed for a 351(k) approval with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency.

BR&R Logo Transparent1.5-21-2017

This does not apply to other potential players. Celltrion cleared the Roche patent lawsuits in April 2017, enabling it to sell its trastuzumab biosimilar in its home country of Korea. This does not necessarily apply to sales in other countries, however.

Positive results were announced for a pivotal phase 3 study of Pfizer’s trastuzumab biosimilar PF-05280014 in Europe in September. These results will likely form the clinical backbone of its 351(k) application.

First launched in 1998, principal patent expiration of Herceptin in the US should be 2018 or 2019 and was 2014 in Europe. It may be assumed that Amgen/Allergan will wait for patent expiration before marketing their product in the US and subsist on sales in Europe in the meantime.

A similar but more protracted situation exists with Abbvie’s Humira®, for which competition will be fierce once the patents expire fully in 2023 (if they are not found to be invalid earlier). Amgen settled with Abbvie to obtain a global license from the originator’s manufacturer, applying to sales after this time. However, Amgen’s biosimilar will still have to compete with severals once the patents expire or are ruled invalid.

I’d like to post others’ opinions as to how the marketshare wars will play out when some patent agreements are made and others are not. What do you think will happen on the Herceptin front?

Can Biosimilars Be Protected By Patent?

In going through my files, I came across an article from last year that asks a very basic but critical intellectual property (IP) question: “Are biosimilars patentable?” Sounds like a simple question, right? Well, the answer may not be straightforward, and relate to another question: “Exactly how different are they?”

In developing generic drugs, drug makers don’t seek to change the manufacturing process—they are attempting to provide an exact duplicate of the branded agent. This helps ensure that their product receives bioequivalency to the branded drug and an AB rating. Biosimilar agents are known to be inexact copies of the innovator product, and this can be the result of using a different cell line to produce the compound, or different processes to create a similar batch of biologic proteins or fragments. It would then make sense that biosimilar manufacturers would want to patent their proprietary process for manufacturing the drug, if it is in fact different than that used to create the originator biologic.

The authors, from a Toronto, Canada law firm, the University of Toronto, and an investment organization that promotes health innovation, point out that “the possibility that a biosimilar product could have meaningful patent protection arises from specific requirements for biosimilarity under the BPCIA, which account for the fact that manufacturing processes of biologics are inherently imprecise.”

They state, “The requirements for biosimilar approval may provide sufficient leeway to a biosimilar applicant to patent structural or formulation differences that provide non-clinical but business-relevant advantages over the reference molecule, such as improved shelf-life or ease of manufacture, without compromising clinical biosimilarity.”

Based on this analysis, it seems logical that a biosimilar manufacturing process should be patentable in its own right. This could pose a defense against other biosimilar developers. However, with so much patent litigation between originator and biosimilar manufacturers, could this add even more to lawsuits in defense of IP?

Frustration Mounts as Sandoz’s Etanercept Biosimilar Launch Delayed into 2018

Call it irritation, exasperation, or frustration, but biosimilar manufacturers and payers alike are feeling it, as the fight over drug patents has barred the way to approval for yet another biosimilar for a costly biologic.

In this case, Sandoz’s Erelzi™, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on August 30, 2016, has been caught in the patent litigation web. The originator drug, Amgen’s Enbrel® was first approved in 1998. Amgen asserts that its patent on the agent protects exclusivity until 2029, which would give Amgen 31 years of sole marketing rights. Despite the unlikely event that it can defend its patent for this extraordinary period, Sandoz has acknowledged that it will need to hold off launch of the biosimilar until at least 2018.

In a report from Reuters on January 25, Richard Francis, CEO of Sandoz, stated that the legal battle “won’t really reach a conclusion until 2018. That’s the frustration sometimes of the legal situation, but the way I look at that, we’re carving the landscape out as we go.”

Indeed, Sandoz has been at launch-delaythe forefront of legal battles, also fighting Amgen on the validity of the 180-day notification period, which is now being readied for US Supreme Court arguments in the Spring. The 180-day notification period for Erelzi was due to end in
late February 2017. After this time, Sandoz may still launch the product, at risk of financial penalties and loss of revenues, if the courts rule that Amgen’s remaining patent is valid.

However, the potential for savings on Enbrel, through biosimilar competition, continues to be a mirage for payers. The agent, which pulled in US revenues of $5 billion in 2015, has been the subject of numerous recent price increases. Health plans and insurers, while believing these costs untenable, may have little choice but to pay up or find ways to more aggressively restrict access.