Last week, the Solicitor General submitted its brief in Amgen v. Sandoz, arguing that the Supreme Court should review and decide in Sandoz’s favor both questions presented by the parties’ cross-petitions for certiorari. Two days later, however, the Supreme Court denied cert in Amgen v. Apotex, which raised similar issues.
This week’s election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States undoubtedly impacts many sectors of the American economy, and the bio/pharmaceutical industry is no exception. Two of Trump’s stated policies might bear directly on how biologics will be protected and litigated in this country and abroad: the repeal of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), also known as Obamacare, and the repudiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
FDA Says BPCIA Poses No Fifth Amendment Taking for Innovator Biologics Submitted Prior to Its Enactment
On the same day that FDA approved the first biosimilar of Humira, the fourth biosimilar to be approved in the U.S., it also denied a citizen petition filed by Abbott Laboratories (now AbbVie) requesting that FDA not accept any filing or approve any application for a biosimilar version of Humira® (adalimubab), AbbVie’s best-selling biologic, or any other product for which a biologics license application (BLA) was submitted to FDA prior to March 23, 2010, the date on which the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) was signed into law. AbbVie argued that to accept or approve any such biosimilar filing would constitute an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment. AbbVie filed its petition in April 2012, long before any biosimilar was approved in the U.S. and before Amgen filed its biosimilar application for Humira with FDA. All four of the U.S. biosimilars approved to date have relied on BLAs submitted to FDA prior to March 23, 2010.
The FDA on Friday approved the first U.S. biosimilar of Humira (adalimumab), AbbVie’s best-selling biologic for treatment of inflammatory conditions. The biosimilar, Amgen’s Amjevita (adalimumab-atto), received approval for all of the indications requested by Amgen: in adults, moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis, active psoriatic arthritis, active ankylosing spondylitis, moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease, moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis, and moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, and in patients four years of age and older, moderately to severely active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Amjevita is the fourth FDA-approved biosimilar in the U.S. As noted by the FDA, Amjevita has been approved as a biosimilar of Humira, not an interchangeable product. Amgen also submitted its Humira biosimilar for review by the European Medicines Agency in December 2015, but the EMA has yet to issue a decision.
Among the first generation of biosimilar litigation under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) is a dispute between Amgen and Apotex over Apotex’s proposed biosimilar versions of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim) and Neulasta (pegfilgrastim). That dispute has resulted in the first final judgment in a BPCIA lawsuit. Earlier this month, Judge James Cohn of the Southern District of Florida ruled after a consolidated bench trial addressing both products that Apotex’s biosimilar applications did not infringe Amgen’s sole remaining patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,952,138 (the ‘138 patent). Meanwhile, Apotex, which remains subject to an injunction prohibiting it from marketing its biosimilar products for 180 days after they are approved, has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court challenging that injunction.
It has been four years since the first inter partes review proceedings were filed in the United States. The first IPR petition, filed on September 16, 2012 (the first day IPRs became available), made it all the way to the Supreme Court, and the number of IPRs has greatly exceeded expectations, making the Patent Trial and Appeal Board one of the most important and busiest forums for patent validity litigation in the US. IPRs were intended to help high-tech innovators besieged with suits from patent trolls to efficiently and cheaply invalidate dubious patents and focus on innovation. But the impact of these proceedings goes far beyond electrical and computer fields as they have had a major impact on biotech and pharmaceutical patents as well. The PTAB proceedings for U.S. Patent No. 6,331,415 (better known as the “Cabilly II patent”) – one of the most litigated biotech patents in the US – offer key insights into IPRs and why they are widely used across technologies.
Amgen’s Federal Circuit Appeal: the Importance of Manufacturing Information to Biosimilar Litigation
Amgen has filed its appeal brief in Amgen v. Hospira, following the Federal Circuit’s denial of Hospira’s motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The appeal presents an important question for biosimilar litigation: where biosimilar applicants fail to provide manufacturing information in the pre-litigation information exchanges of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), are they required to provide that information in litigation even if it is irrelevant to the asserted patents? The question is particularly important because if the answer is no as the district court held, then innovator companies will be forced to assert manufacturing patents that they do not know to be infringed in order to be able to obtain discovery to evaluate their infringement. Amgen also addresses whether the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction to hear the appeal under either the collateral order doctrine or the All Writs Act.
In UCB, Inc. v. Yeda Research and Development Co., the Federal Circuit affirmed the determination by the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia that UCB, Inc.’s Cimzia® (certolizumab pegol), a humanized antibody fragment that treats inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, does not infringe a monoclonal antibody patent owned by Yeda Research and Development Co., Ltd.. (Fed. Cir. No. 2015-1957, September 8, 2016). Based on actions taken during prosecution, the Federal Circuit agreed that Yeda was “estopped from including chimeric and humanized antibodies within the scope of the monoclonal antibodies claimed” in its patent.
The Federal Circuit has now issued two decisions interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). In Amgen v. Sandoz, the first decision to interpret the BPCIA, the majority held that biosimilar makers could opt out of the first step of the BPCIA’s pre-litigation disclosures, the provision requiring biosimilar makers to provide the innovator company with their abbreviated Biologics License Application (aBLA) and other manufacturing information describing the processes used to make the proposed biosimilar. The court held that the innovator company could sue under the BPCIA in such circumstances and obtain the needed information in discovery. In its second decision, Amgen v. Apotex, the court further buttressed its reasoning as to why the first step of the BPCIA’s pre-litigation provisions was optional. Amgen now appeals a discovery ruling in its biosimilar litigation with Hospira holding that Amgen v. Sandoz does not require Hospira to produce manufacturing information for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Hospira moved to dismiss the appeal as premature. The Federal Circuit denied the motion and is allowing the appeal to proceed on the merits while at the same time requiring the parties to further address jurisdictional issues.
Six years after the biosimilar pathway was enacted into law, FDA has approved three biosimilars for marketing in the US. Sandoz’s Zarxio, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen, was the first biosimilar to be approved. Zarxio, a relatively simple biologic, was approved in March 2015 under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). This year, FDA approved two complex biologics, Celltrion and Pfizer’s Inflectra, a biosimilar of Janssen’s Remicade, and Sandoz’s Erelzi, a biosimilar of Amgen’s Enbrel. FDA staff and its arthritis advisory committee also recommended approval of Amgen’s proposed biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira. On the other hand, Sandoz revealed in July that its biosimilar application for Amgen’s Neulasta, a long-acting version of Neupogen, had been rejected by FDA and Hospira did the same last year for its biosimilar application for Amgen’s EPO. Although the approvals (and rejections) provide significant insights as to FDA’s requirements, there are no simple lessons to be drawn.
On August 30 FDA approved Sandoz Inc.’s biosimilar of Enbrel (etanercept), Amgen Inc.’s blockbuster biologic for treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other autoimmune conditions. The biosimilar, Erelzi (etanercept-szzs), is the third biosimilar approved for marketing in the US under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). Erelzi has been approved for all of Enbrel’s indications and is the first U.S. biosimilar of etanercept.
In July, the Federal Circuit decided Amgen v. Apotex, No. 2016-1308 (Fed, Cir. July 5, 2016), its second decision interpreting the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation of Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed biosimilar until 180 days after post-licensure notice of first commercial marketing. The Federal Circuit held that 180 days’ notice was mandatory regardless of whether the biosimilar maker provided its regulatory application to the innovator as prescribed at the outset of the BPCIA procedures or not. The decision has impacted other district court litigation, including the Janssen v. Celltrion/Hospira and Amgen v. Hospira cases, since the biosimilar makers in those cases also argued that they did not need to provide 180 days’ notice of commercial marketing after being licensed by FDA.
Judge Chesler of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey has dismissed one of Amgen’s pending lawsuits against Sandoz under the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (“BPCIA”).
In Rapid Litig. Mgmt. Ltd v. CellzDirect, Inc., the Federal Circuit reversed a ruling of patent invalidity under Section 101, reviving a biotech patent to a method of preserving hepatocytes, liver cells, for medical use. The Federal Circuit reversed the district court at both steps of the Supreme Court’s framework for patent eligibility set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012). In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent denial of certiorari in Sequenom Inc., v. Ariosa Inc., where Sequenom sought guidance on the proper application of the Mayo two-step test, the Federal Circuit’s decision provides important guidance for how to determine patent eligibility for biotech inventions that build on natural discoveries. It also may help stem what many, including several Federal Circuit judges, have described as a crisis in medical innovation due to how courts and the Patent Office have applied Mayo.
Amgen and Hospira have fired off a dueling letters to the court in their litigation over Amgen's Epogen biosimilar, debating whether the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), contains a private right of action. The letters come in the wake of the Federal Circuit’s Amgen v. Apotex decision, which held that the BPCIA’s 180-day notice of commercial marketing provision is mandatory and enforceable by an injunction.
Federal Circuit Decides Amgen v. Apotex, Holds that 180-Day Notice of Commercial Marketing is Always Mandatory in Biosimilar Litigation
Today, the Federal Circuit decided Amgen v. Apotex, No. 2016-1308 (Fed. Cir. July 5, 2016), its second decision interpreting the U.S. biosimilar statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation of Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed biosimilar on the U.S. market during the 180-day post-approval notice of commercial marketing period. Writing for a unanimous panel that also included Judges Wallach and Bryson, Judge Taranto held that “the commercial marketing provision is mandatory and enforceable by injunction even for an applicant in Apotex’s position.”
Prominent among the first generation of U.S. biosimilar litigations under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (“BPCIA”) are the disputes between Amgen and Sandoz concerning Amgen’s related cancer drugs Neupogen (filgrastim) and Neulasta (pegfilgrastim).
Supreme Court Denies Sequenom’s Cert Petition, Leaving the Federal Circuit’s Interpretation of the Mayo/Alice Patent Eligibility Framework Intact For Now
The Supreme Court today denied Sequenom Inc.’s petition for writ of certiorari, in which Sequenom asked the Court to review a decision of the Federal Circuit invalidating its patent on a breakthrough prenatal diagnostic procedure. In denying the petition, the Court has declined to revisit the patent eligibility framework it set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012) and reaffirmed in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014).
In a consolidated litigation in the Southern District of Florida involving Apotex’s proposed biosimilars of Amgen’s Neupogen, an anti-infection drug for cancer patients, and of Amgen’s Neulasta, a long-acting version of Neupogen, Apotex participated in the pre-suit information exchanges of the BPCIA, agreed with Amgen as to what patents should be asserted in the BPCIA’s immediate litigation phase but then counterclaimed that Amgen engaged in sham litigation by bringing suit on one of the agreed patents. With trial to begin in July, Apotex recently stipulated to dismissal of its sham litigation counterclaims, leaving for another case the question of whether a biosimilar maker can both agree as to which patents to litigate in the immediate litigation phase and sustain a claim of sham litigation against the innovator for asserting agreed patents.
Full Federal Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Jurisdictional Decision with Important Implications for BPCIA Litigation
On June 20, 2016, the full Federal Circuit declined to rehear Acorda Therapeutics Inc. v. Mylan Pharms. Inc., 817 F.3d 755 (Fed. Cir. 2016) en banc. Acorda affirmed two District of Delaware decisions finding specific jurisdiction over Mylan Pharms., an out-of-state ANDA filer, based on its plans to sell its proposed generic drugs in Delaware. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), Mylan has argued that it could only be sued in its home state of West Virginia in ANDA cases since future sales of its proposed generic drugs could not confer specific jurisdiction in Delaware. The Federal Circuit disagreed. Under Acorda, plaintiffs in ANDA cases as well as in cases brought under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) can bring suit in their forum of choice based on future sales of proposed generic or biosimilar products so long as considerations of fairness, such as efficiency or undue burden, do not render jurisdiction in the forum unreasonable.
Supreme Court Affirms Cuozzo – Leaving in Place BRI and Judicial Review Limitation for IPR Proceedings
In Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, No. 15-446, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s holdings that an alleged defect in the PTO’s institution of an inter partes review (IPR) was not subject to judicial review even on appeal of a final decision, and that the PTO can apply the “broadest reasonable interpretation” claim construction standard in IPR proceedings. Over 30 amicus briefs were filed in this case, with pharma/biotech innovators urging the Court to reverse the Federal Circuit.
Amgen Appeals Ruling on Requirement to Produce Manufacturing Information for a Biosimilar Product under Amgen v. Sandoz
Amgen has appealed a partial denial of its motion to compel in Amgen v. Hospira, which sought discovery of the formulation for the cell culture media that Hospira uses to manufacture its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen. Judge Andrews of the District of Delaware granted Amgen’s motion to the extent it sought information relevant to infringement of an asserted patent, but did not agree with Amgen’s broader argument that disclosure of manufacturing information was required under the Federal Circuit’s decision in Amgen v. Sandoz, which held that an innovator company can commence suit when a biosimilar maker fails to provide required information under the statutory process set forth in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) and “access the required information through discovery.” Amgen’s discovery dispute with Hospira represents an important lesson in the aftermath of Amgen v. Sandoz. Innovator companies that assert only a subset of their manufacturing patents, as Amgen did, may only be able to obtain discovery relevant to those patents. As a result, innovator companies may choose to assert all of their manufacturing patents in order to obtain manufacturing information that biosimilar makers fail to provide under the BPCIA.
Today, the Supreme Court deferred a decision on certiorari in Amgen v. Sandoz, inviting the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States. Sandoz petitioned for review of one aspect of the Federal Circuit’s 2015 decision, that court’s first and so far only interpretation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), and Amgen filed a conditional cross-petition asking for review of another aspect of the decision if Sandoz’s petition were granted. The Supreme Court’s order asks the Solicitor General to comment on both petitions.
Last year, FDA published a draft guidance recommending that the nonproprietary names of biologics, including biosimilars, should consist of “core names” along with unique suffixes that are “devoid of meaning.” In a recent notice in the Federal Register, FDA stated that it will allow biologics sponsors to submit ten suggested suffixes for their products under FDA’s proposed naming scheme. This new recommendation represents a change from last year’s guidance, which invited sponsors to submit three suggested suffixes.
Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc., Natera, Inc., and DNA Diagnostics Center, Inc. have filed briefs in opposition to Sequenom’s petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court for review of the Federal Circuit’s decision holding Sequenom’s fetal DNA diagnostic patent ineligible under Section 101 and the test set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012).
A 70-group coalition of healthcare stakeholders urged the FDA to incorporate meaningful and therefore memorable suffixes into its distinguishable naming system for biological medicines to provide strong patient protections and provider confidence. The coalition emphasized that “meaningful suffixes are easier for patients, providers and pharmacists to both recognize and remember, thus facilitating accurate association between adverse effects and specific products.” The coalition explained that meaningful suffixes based on the name of the manufacturer, such as the “sndz” suffix used for the first approved biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), instead of the random suffixes proposed in FDA’s most recent draft guidance and used for the first time in FDA’s recent approval of a second biosimilar, Celltrion and Pfizer’s Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb), would promote manufacturer accountability. Notably, FDA used a random suffix for the nonproprietary name of Inflectra despite widespread criticism by innovators and biosimilar makers alike of FDA’s naming approach.
In the last couple of years, a new gene editing technique called CRISPR has taken biology by storm. Scientists worldwide are using CRISPR to turn off, turn on and alter genes in living cells. CRISPR is so precise that it is expected to turn into a promising therapy for correcting genes in people, thereby curing devastating illnesses. Gene editing startups have burst onto the scene and industry has jumped in to develop this technology for therapeutic use. But CRISPR is now embroiled in a massive patent fight between the research institutions that lay claim to the technology. In January, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) declared an interference, an arcane and largely obsolete proceeding, to decide who was first to invent CRISPR gene editing in eukaryotic cells (using Cas9, a CRISPR associated protein), and thus who may be able to profit from its far-reaching applications.
The biotechnology and life sciences industry has voiced strong support for Sequenom’s recent request that the Supreme Court review the Federal Circuit’s decision holding that Sequenom’s patent on prenatal diagnosis using fetal DNA was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for claiming ineligible natural phenomena. Twenty-two amici have filed briefs in support of Sequenom’s petition, representing a diverse contingent of stakeholders: biotech and life science companies, innovators in other technological fields, academics, international and domestic professional organizations, and IP licensors. Many elaborate on the arguments raised by Sequenom in its petition, including the potential for a Mayo-induced “crisis of patent law and medical innovation.”
On April 5, the FDA announced the approval of Inflectra, Celltrion and Pfizer’s biosimilar of Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade (infliximab). Inflectra is now the second biosimilar approved for sale in the United States, after Sandoz’s Zarxio. Inflectra’s label and naming reflect the latest FDA guidance.
Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept), a blockbuster biologic treatment for a number of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, has been an attractive target for biosimilar makers. Sandoz, the maker of Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), the only biosimilar launched in the US to date, is also first in line with an Enbrel biosimilar in the US. Last October, Sandoz announced that FDA accepted its regulatory application for a proposed Enbrel biosimilar for review. Sandoz is seeking marketing approval for all of Enbrel’s medical indications. But Sandoz’s proposed Enbrel biosimilar brought litigation under the US biosimilars statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA).
On Thursday, FDA released draft guidance clarifying its position on labeling biosimilar products. While the guidance addresses some of the concerns raised by physicians and innovator companies, FDA’s guidance largely continues to treat biosimilars like generics for purposes of labeling.
Amgen has fired back in response to Sandoz’s cert petition in Amgen v. Sandoz, arguing that the Supreme Court should not hear the case—but that if it does, it should also review the Federal Circuit’s holding on the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act’s (BPCIA’s) “patent dance.” Though Amgen declined to seek cert on the patent dance issue, which it lost at the Federal Circuit, it has now filed a conditional cross-petition on that issue along with its opposition to Sandoz’s petition for review of the Federal Circuit’s holding on the BPCIA’s notice of commercial marketing.
On March 21, 2015, Sequenom filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court in Sequenom, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, et al. (No. 15-1182). Sequenom seeks Supreme Court review of a Federal Circuit decision holding Sequenom’s patent on a breakthrough non-invasive fetal DNA diagnostic method invalid as directed at patent-ineligible natural phenomena. In its petition, Sequenom calls its case the “ideal vehicle” for the Supreme Court to address mounting concern – acknowledged by the Federal Circuit below – that Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012), has been interpreted too broadly, rendering otherwise meritorious inventions patent ineligible. Sequenom argues that the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of Mayo is incorrect and would have sweeping and devastating effects on innovation in biotechnology.
Federal Circuit's Jurisdictional Decision for ANDA Cases Has Important Implications for BPCIA Litigation
The Federal Circuit affirmed two decisions by the District of Delaware to assert personal jurisdiction in ANDA cases over West Virginia-based manufacturer Mylan. Mylan had argued that it could only be sued in West Virginia in ANDA cases post the Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014) because such cases are litigated before actual sales of its generic drug product are made in Delaware (and elsewhere). The Federal Circuit grounded its rejection of Mylan's approach on Mylan's filing of its ANDAs with the clear intent to market its proposed generic drugs in Delaware upon FDA approval, as well as the injury Mylan would cause in Delaware through such sales. Under the Federal Circuit's decision, plaintiffs in ANDA and BPCIA cases can obtain jurisdiction over defendants in their forum of choice based on defendants' regulatory filings with the intent to market their proposed products so long as consideration of fairness, such as undue burden on defendants, do not render jurisdiction in the chosen forum unreasonable.
Despite mixed results, biosimilar makers continue to turn to inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in order to challenge innovator patents protecting some of the most important biologics.
In the latest skirmish between Amgen and Sandoz under the U.S. biosimilars statute, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), Amgen has filed a new declaratory judgment claim alleging violations of the BPCIA. As described in Amgen’s March 4 complaint, after filing an application for a biosimilar version of Amgen’s cancer drug Neulasta, Sandoz cut short the BPCIA patent dance and demanded that Amgen file an immediate patent infringement suit, claiming that Amgen would otherwise lose its rights to seek lost profits and injunctive relief. Amgen responded with a suit for a declaration that it had no obligation to go forward with the immediate litigation phase of the BPCIA after Sandoz cut off the pre-suit procedures.
Sandoz has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Amgen v. Sandoz, the first and, to date, only Federal Circuit decision interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA). Sandoz is challenging the Federal Circuit's ruling that biosimilar applicants must observe a 180-day notice period after their products are approved by the FDA.
AbbVie, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, has submitted a citizen petition to the FDA regarding determinations of interchangeability under the BPCIA. An interchangeable biological product is biosimilar to a reference product and meets additional, heightened standards for interchangeability. While biosimilars are required to be highly similar to an FDA-approved reference product, an interchangeable biological product is expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient. A determination of interchangeability is significant because an interchangeable biological product may be substituted for a reference product by a pharmacist without requiring permission from the physician who prescribed the reference product. While the FDA approved the first biosimilar biological product in early 2015, it has yet to issue a decision that one biological product is “interchangeable” with another.
In 2015, FDA issued a number of final guidance documents for biosimilars but many fundamental questions remain unsettled, including the requirements for labeling of biosimilars, interchangeability, and naming. There is much ahead for the US biosimilars pathway in 2016.
2015 was a landmark year for biosimilars. It began with the approval of the first US biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio, in March 2015 under the biosimilars pathway. Zarxio entered the US market in September. Many expected the floodgates to open after Zarxio’s approval but Zarxio remains the only approved US biosimilar to this day, although that is expected to change this year. Seven other biosimilar applications were filed in 2014/2015 and are either being reviewed by FDA or have to be refiled. Most of these applications are to complex biologics. 2016 should provide significant insights into how FDA determines biosimilarity and extrapolation for these complex products.
On January 26, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled the final version of its proposal for a worldwide biosimilar naming convention. The WHO proposes to add a “biologic qualifier” (BQ), which consists of four random consonants and an optional two-digit checksum, as an identifier that follows the nonproprietary name of each biologic and biosimilar product. This proposal resembles FDA’s biosimilar naming proposal, which adds four random consonants as a suffix to nonproprietary names. Industry and healthcare stakeholders have criticized FDA’s proposal to use random suffixes, instead of meaningful—and therefore memorable—ones, due to a greater likelihood of reporting and prescription errors with meaningless names. The WHO proposal, which uses a randomly generated separate identifier, is likely to draw similar criticism.
Nearly six years after the U.S. biosimilar statute was passed, the number of reported decisions addressing the statute can still be counted on the fingers of two hands, but this has been enough for some clear patterns to emerge. Again and again, biosimilar applicants and innovators have taken consistent, but diametrically opposed, positions on fundamental issues concerning the operation of the statute. As the courts have resolved these disputes, the basic framework for biosimilar patent litigation has taken shape – at least until the next generation of biosimilar applications raises new issues.
Amgen has decided not to seek Supreme Court review of the Federal Circuit’s Amgen v. Sandoz decision, as the January 14, 2016 deadline to file has now passed without Amgen petitioning for certiorari. In Amgen, the Federal Circuit held that the BPCIA’s “patent dance” patent dispute resolution procedures are essentially optional. With the Federal Circuit having already denied en banc review, Amgen’s decision not to seek cert appears to mean that the patent dance is now optional as a matter of settled law. There is, however, one caveat: if Sandoz seeks cert and the Court accepts, Amgen could file a cross-motion on the patent dance issue.
Earlier this week, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) set the stage for what is expected to be an epic battle over who owns the intellectual property rights to “the biggest biotech discovery of the century.” On January 11, 2016, the PTAB declared an interference to decide who was first to invent the use of the groundbreaking gene-editing technique known as CRISPR in eukaryotic cells. The CRISPR proceeding may be one of the last great biotech interferences. The claims at issue are viewed by many as the “holy grail” for correcting and curing human genetic diseases and interferences will ultimately become obsolete under the America Invents Act.
The Federal Circuit Will Hear Apotex’s Appeal from a Preliminary Injunction Under the BPCIA in Early 2016
In early 2016, the Federal Circuit will hear Apotex’s appeal from a preliminary injunction barring Apotex from selling its proposed Neulasta biosimilar for 180 days after FDA approval. Briefing will be complete on February 12, 2016, and the Federal Circuit agreed to place the case on the oral argument calendar soon thereafter. Apotex had asked for a more expedited schedule but was not able to provide any specific evidence of when its proposed biosimilar product will be approved.
On December 9, a federal district court in Florida issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Apotex from selling a proposed biosimilar version of Amgen’s cancer drug Neulasta for 180 days after the biosimilar is approved. In the decision, the district court resolved in Amgen’s favor a dispute over the meaning of the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Amgen v. Sandoz, the first and to date the only appellate decision addressing the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA).
This fall marks the tenth anniversary of the effective date of the European Medicines Agency's Guideline on Similar Biological Medicinal Products. Over the past ten years, the EMA has approved 19 biosimilars corresponding to 6 different reference drugs, under the Guideline, and a biosimilar of a seventh is nearing final approval. Since the EU system served as the model, in many respects, for the biosimilar approval process in the U.S. and other developed countries, the European experience sheds light on what we can expect in the development and commercializations of biosimilars in the U.S. in the next several years.
On November 19, 2015, the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) gave a positive opinion, recommending marketing authorization of Samsung Bioepis’s Benepali, the first biosimilar of Enbrel (etanercept), in Europe. Enbrel is a blockbuster treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and a number of other autoimmune conditions associated with elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), a protein that plays an important role in promoting inflammation. The CHMP recommended approval of Benepali for these conditions. In the US, FDA recently accepted Sandoz’s regulatory application for its proposed biosimilar of Enbrel for review. Sandoz is seeking approval for all of Enbrel’s indications. FDA’s review of Sandoz’s proposed biosimilar will provide important information on the requirements for biosimilarity and extrapolation for complex biologic products.
FDA has received comments from more than 170 groups on its proposal for naming biosimilars. Biosimilar makers, insurers and pharmacies largely oppose distinct nonproprietary names (also known as proper names) for biosimilars. By contrast, innovators (including those that develop biosimilars), healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups view them as critical to ensuring patient safety. However, most stakeholders in both camps urged FDA to use meaningful suffixes to distinguish biosimilars from originator products rather than suffixes “devoid of meaning.” FDA proposed to add meaningless suffixes to the nonproprietary names of originator products to address concerns of biosimilar makers that distinct names would discourage adoption of biosimilar products. But biosimilar makers expressed concern that such meaningless suffixes will lead to a variety of errors and ultimately endanger public safety. FDA may now revisit its proposal given the largely uniform preference of innovators and biosimilar makers alike for meaningful and memorable nonproprietary names, such as those that identify the manufacturer of the biologic.
In its draft guidance, FDA proposed distinguishable nonproprietary names for biosimilars to promote the safety of patients receiving biologic medicines and minimize inadvertent substitution of biologics that have not been determined to be interchangeable. FDA did not make a proposal for naming interchangeable biological products. Instead, FDA requested comments on how to name such products in addition to seeking comments on its approach to naming biosimilars. Stakeholders’ comments are now in. Innovator companies (including those that also develop biosimilars), healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups favor distinguishable nonproprietary names for biosimilars. Biosimilar makers, insurers, pharmacies, and the FTC, by contrast, largely fall into a different camp; they argue that distinct names are unnecessary for monitoring biosimilars and will likely bias providers against prescribing them. Notably, the two camps came together on the naming of interchangeable products. Since interchangeable products will likely first be approved as biosimilars, both camps advocated keeping the initial biosimilar name rather than changing it after approval as an interchangeable product. As a result of this unified view, FDA is likely to expand the naming approach it ultimately adopts for biosimilars to interchangeable products.
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