Articles Posted in Drugs & Biotech

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In multi-district litigation involving 315 product liability claims, plaintiffs alleged that Pfizer’s drug, Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), caused cardiac birth defects. The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee introduced several experts to establish causation. The testimony of each of these experts was excluded in whole or in part. In particular, Nicholas Jewell, Ph.D., a statistician, used the “Bradford Hill” criteria to analyze existing literature on the causal connection between Zoloft and birth defects. The district court conducted a Daubert hearing, excluded Jewell's testimony, and granted summary judgment to defendants, stating that Jewell: “failed to consistently apply the scientific methods he articulates, has deviated from or downplayed certain well-established principles of his field, and has inconsistently applied methods and standards to the data so as to support his a priori opinion.” The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not require replication of significant results to establish reliability, but merely made a factual finding that teratologists generally require replication of significant results, and this factual finding did not prevent it from considering other evidence of reliability. View "In Re: Zoloft t (Sertraline Hydrochloride) Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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Qui tam relator failed to satisfy the False Claims Act’s materiality requirement in alleging that the manufacturer of a widely-prescribed cancer drug, Avastin, suppressed data that caused doctors to certify incorrectly that Avastin was “reasonable and necessary” for certain at-risk Medicare patients. Avastin is FDA-approved and has accounted for $1.13 billion a year in Medicare reimbursements. The relator, formerly the head of healthcare data analytics for the manufacturer, claimed the company ignored and suppressed data that would have shown that Avastin’s side effects for certain patients were more common and severe than reported and that such analyses would have required the company to file adverse event reports with the FDA, and could have resulted in changes to Avastin’s FDA label. He claimed the company caused physicians to submit Medicare claims that were not “reasonable and necessary.” The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim, stating the allegations may be true but a False Claims Act suit is not the appropriate way to address them. The manufacturer followed all pertinent statutes and regulations. If those laws and regulations are inadequate to protect patients, it falls to the other branches of government to reform them. View "Petratos v. Genentech Inc" on Justia Law

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The consolidated appeals involve allegations that the companies holding the patents for Lipitor and Effexor XR delayed entry into the market by generic versions of those drugs by engaging in an overarching monopolistic scheme that involved fraudulently procuring and enforcing the underlying patents and then entering into a reverse-payment settlement agreement with a generic manufacturer. In 2013, the Supreme Court recognized that reverse payment schemes can violate antitrust laws and that it is normally not necessary to litigate patent validity to answer the antitrust question. The district judge dismissed most of plaintiffs’ claims. The Third Circuit remanded after rejecting an argument that plaintiffs’ allegations required transfer of the appeals to the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from civil actions “arising under” patent law, 28 U.S.C. 1295(a)(1). Not all cases presenting questions of patent law necessarily arise under patent law; here, patent law neither creates plaintiffs’ cause of action nor is a necessary element to any of plaintiffs’ well-pleaded claims. The court remanded one of the Lipitor appeals, brought by a group of California pharmacists and involving claims solely under California law, for jurisdictional discovery and determination of whether remand to state court was appropriate. View "In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Hundreds of plaintiffs sued the drug manufacturer Merck, alleging that the osteoporosis drug Fosamax caused them to suffer serious thigh bone fractures. Each brought a state-law tort claim alleging that Merck failed to add an adequate warning of the risk to Fosamax’s FDA-approved drug label. Many also brought claims including defective design, negligence, and breach of warranty. Plaintiffs’ suits were consolidated in multi-district litigation in the District of New Jersey. Following discovery and a bellwether trial, the court granted Merck summary judgment, based on the Supreme Court’s holding in Wyeth v. Levine, that state-law failure-to-warn claims are preempted when there is “clear evidence” that the FDA would not have approved the warning that plaintiffs claim was necessary. The Third Circuit vacated. Preemption is an affirmative defense; Merck did not carry its burden to prove that it is entitled to that defense. The Wyeth “clear evidence” standard is demanding and fact-sensitive. It requires a court sitting in summary judgment to anticipate the range of conclusions that a reasonable juror might reach and the certainty with which the juror would reach them. Here, plaintiffs produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the FDA would have approved a properly-worded warning about the risk of thigh fractures—or to conclude that the odds of FDA rejection were less than highly probable. View "In Re: Fosamax Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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Generic drug manufacturers (plaintiffs) originally sued name-brand drug companies (defendants) that manufacture and sell “Doryx,” the delayed-release doxycycline hyclate, an oral antibiotic of the tetracycline class used to treat severe acne. Tetracyclines are a broad category of antibiotics, the most common being doxycycline monohydrate and minocycline, which vary in their use and efficacy. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants conspired to protect their position in the market through “product hopping,” by making four critical changes to Doryx, all of which required generics to go through a cumbersome regulatory approval process if they wanted to continue to benefit from state substitution laws. Several plaintiffs settled their cases and the district court rejected, on summary judgment, remaining claims of unlawful monopoly and attempted monopolization under section 2 of the Sherman Act; agreement in restraint of trade under section 1 of the Sherman Act; and tortious interference with prospective contractual relationships under Pennsylvania law. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that defendants’ conduct was not anticompetitive, and that, even if it was, it was not established that defendants had the requisite market power in the relevant product market. Adoption of plaintiffs’ theory of “anticompetitive product redesign” could have adverse, unintended consequences, including slowing innovation. View "Mylan Pharma. Inc v. Warner Chilcott Pub. Ltd. Co." on Justia Law

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Cephalon’s patent, issued in 1997, claimed a specific distribution of modafinil, used to treat sleep disorders. Cephalon obtained Reissue Patent 516 in 2002. Cephaolon’s use of modafinil was patent-protected until April 2015. In 1998, the FDA approved Cephalon’s New Drug Application (NDA) for the brand-name drug Provigil and granted New Chemical Entity exclusivity until December 2005, as an orphan drug. Cephalon later obtained six months of pediatric exclusivity, 21 U.S.C. 355a(c). Without the patent, Cephalon’s exclusivity would have ended in June 2006. In December 2002, four generic drug each independently filed an Abbreviated NDA seeking to sell generic modafinil. All four were treated as the first filer. Each application certification “automatically counts as patent infringement,” 35 U.S.C. 271(e)(2)(A)), so Cephalon sued all four, then entered into “reverse-payment settlements” to keep each out of the market. A putative class of wholesalers who purchased Provigil directly from Cephalon filed suit, alleging a global conspiracy involving Cephalon and the generic manufacturers, 15 U.S.C. 1; four separate conspiracies; and monopolization, 15 U.S.C. 2. A motion for class certification was filed after eight years of litigation. One month later the court granted defendants summary judgment on the antitrust conspiracy claim. The court certified the class after three defendants settled for $512 million. The Third Circuit vacated the class certification order and remanded for further consideration of whether joinder of all class members is impracticable. Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that the numerosity requirement of Rule 23(a)(1) was satisfied. View "In Re: Modafinil AntiTrust Litig." on Justia Law

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Hartig filed a putative class action, alleging antitrust violations involving medicated eyedrops manufactured by the Defendants. Hartig claimed that the Defendants’ wrongful suppression of generic competition resulted in supracompetitive pricing of those eyedrops. Although not a direct purchaser of the medications, Hartig claimed it had standing to sue because of an assignment of rights from Amerisource, a direct purchaser. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that an anti-assignment clause in a distribution agreement between Allergan (the assignee of the named inventors) and Amerisource barred any assignment of antitrust claims from Amerisource to Hartig. The Third Circuit vacated; the district court erred in treating antitrust standing as an issue of subject-matter jurisdiction. The court distinguished between Article III standing and antitrust standing and stated that, when the correct procedures are followed, the court may consider the impact of the anti-assignment clause. View "Hartig Drug Co., Inc v. Senju Pharma. Co., Ltd" on Justia Law

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Sanofi has sold Lovenox, an anticoagulant drug, in the U.S. since 1993. Fragmin, a competing injectable, sold only abroad until 2005, when Eisai obtained a U.S. license. Some Fragmin indications overlap Lovenox’s indications. The relevant product market also includes two other injectable anticoagulant drugs. In 2005-2010, Lovenox had the most indications of the four drugs, the largest sales force, and a market share of 81.5% to 92.3%. Fragmin had the second largest market share at 4.3-8.2%. In 2005-2010, Sanofi offered the “Lovenox Acute Contract Value Program.” Eisai alleged anticompetitive conduct by: market share and volume discounts, a restrictive formulary access clause, and aggressive sales tactics in marketing the Program. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Sanofi. What Eisai called “payoffs” were only discounts Sanofi offered its customers; what Eisai called “agreements with hospitals to block access” were actually provisions proscribing customers from favoring competing drugs over Lovenox. What Eisai called “a campaign of ‘fear, uncertainty, and doubt’” was simply Sanofi’s marketing. Under the rule of reason, there was no evidence that Sanofi’s actions caused broad harm to the competitive nature of the anticoagulant market. If Sanofi’s conduct caused damage to its competitors, that is not a harm for which Congress has prescribed a remedy. View "Eisai Inc v. Sanofi Aventis U.S. LLC" on Justia Law

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Whether a third-party payer (TPP) will cover the cost of a member’s prescription depends on whether that drug is listed in the TPP’s formulary. Pharmacy Benefit Managers prepare TPPs’ formularies of drugs approved for use by TPP members by analyzing research regarding a drug’s cost effectiveness, safety and efficacy. In 1999, the FDA approved Avandia as a prescription for type II diabetes. TPPs included Avandia in their formularies and covered Avandia prescriptions at a favorable rate. GSK downplayed concerns about Avandia’s heart-related side effects. In 2010, the FDA restricted access to Avandia in response to increasing evidence of its cardiovascular risks. TPPs (union health and welfare funds) sued GSK on behalf of themselves and similarly situated TPPs. asserting that GSK’s failure to disclose Avandia’s significant heart-related risks violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act based on predicate acts of mail fraud, wire fraud, tampering with witnesses, and use of interstate facilities to conduct unlawful activity. They also claimed unjust enrichment and violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and other states’ consumer protection laws. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the TPPs adequately alleged the elements of standing. View "In Re: Avandia Mktg.,Sales Practices & Prod. Liab." on Justia Law

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In earlier litigation, Teva challenged the validity and enforceability of GSK’s patents on lamotrigine, Lamictal’s active ingredient. Teva was first to file an FDA application, alleging invalidity or nonenforceability, and seeking approval to produce generic lamotrigine tablets and chewable tablets for markets alleged to be annually worth $2 billion and $50 million,. If the patent suit resulted in a determination of invalidity or nonenforceability—or a settlement incorporating such terms—Teva would be statutorily entitled to a 180- day period of market exclusivity, during which time only it and GSK could produce generic lamotrigine tablets. After the judge ruled the patent’s main claim invalid, the companies settled; Teva would end its patent challenge in exchange for early entry into the chewables market and GSK’s commitment not to produce its own, “authorized generic” Lamictal tablets. Plaintiffs, direct purchasers of Lamictal, sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1 & 2, claiming that the agreement was a “reverse payment” intended to induce Teva to abandon the patent fight and eliminate the risk of competition in the lamotrigine tablet market for longer than the patent would otherwise permit. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit vacated, citing Supreme Court precedent, holding that unexplained large payments from the holder of a drug patent to an alleged infringer to settle litigation of the patent’s validity or infringement (reverse payment) can violate antitrust laws. View "King Drug Co of Florence Inc, v. Smithkline Beecham Corp." on Justia Law