On Thursday, FDA released draft guidance clarifying its position on labeling biosimilar products.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.
Last month, in a case under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) involving Apotex’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), Apotex accused Amgen of sham litigation for bringing a patent infringement claim on a that the parties agreed to litigate during the immediate litigation phase of the BPCIA. In its Answer to Apotex’s Counterclaims, Amgen pointed out that Apotex had agreed to include the patent in the BPCIA infringement action, despite having a statutory option to disagree.
In Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2120 (2014), the Supreme Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s “insolubly ambiguous” standard for determining whether a patent claim meets the definiteness requirement under 35 U.S.C. §112, ¶ 2, and that “a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification delineating the patent, and the prosecution history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.” In the ensuing one and a half years, the Federal Circuit and several trial courts have applied the Nautilus standard in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical contexts. We discuss three notable decisions.
After the FDA approved the first U.S. biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), earlier this year, many predicted that the floodgates would open for biosimilar products. That has not been the case. No other U.S. biosimilar product has been approved. And, as FDA’s recent rejection of Hospira’s EPO biosimilar application suggests, Zarxio’s approval may ultimately provide little guidance for more complex products.
At long last, the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement among a dozen Pacific Rim nations, has now been made available to the public. The chapter on intellectual property, however, does not appear to have any material changes relating to exclusivity for new biologics from the leaked draft released by WikiLeaks last month. Just as the provisions in the leaked draft did, Articles 18.50 and 18.52 give countries a choice between, on the one hand, at least eight years of exclusivity or, on the other hand, at least five years of exclusivity plus unspecified “other measures” and protection through “market circumstances.” Additionally, the agreement seems to provide for only market exclusivity, not data exclusivity. The TPP bars biosimilar applicants from entering the market during the exclusivity period, but does not appear to prevent them from accessing innovators’ regulatory data.
The first biosimilar makers to file regulatory applications with FDA attempted to bypass all or a subset of the patent litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). Apotex, the third biosimilar maker to file an application for approval of a biosimilar product with FDA, chose a different course. Apotex participated in and completed the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchanges (also known as the “patent dance”) for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim). As Amgen’s recent lawsuit shows, Apotex followed the patent dance again for its proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim).
After half a decade of negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership seems to do little more than maintain the status quo for biologics. A leaked draft of the agreement appears to require member states to provide between five and eight years of exclusivity for new biologics. But almost all TPP signatories provide that duration under current law, and some governments have already said that the pact will not require them to change their laws. The United States will be able to maintain its current twelve years of protection. Additionally, the agreement appears to provide only market exclusivity, which prevents biosimilars from being sold, and not data exclusivity, which prevents biosimilar makers from using innovators’ regulatory data. Because the TPP largely reflects existing exclusivity periods for biologics, many view it as a missed opportunity for incentivizing global investment in new biologics.
This morning, the full Federal Circuit declined to rehear en banc Amgen v. Sandoz, the first appellate decision interpreting the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The decision to deny en banc review comes as something of a surprise, as the panel decision was fractured, and neither party disputed that it raised important issues of first impression. Indeed, both parties sought en banc review, albeit on different issues. In a per curiam order issued this morning, the court denied both petitions. Unless the Supreme Court (or a later en banc court) intervenes, the panel’s decision will stand as the Federal Circuit’s authoritative statement on the issues presented.
Last month, Amgen sued Hospira in Delaware under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) over Hospira’s proposed biosimilar version of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Amgen brought, among others, two BPCIA-specific claims under 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(2)(A) (relating to Hospira’s alleged failure to provide the required manufacturing information) and 42 U.S.C. § 262(l)(8)(A) (relating to Hospira’s allegedly ineffective 180-day notice of commercial marketing). On October 13, Hospira moved to dismiss these claims, arguing that Congress did not create a private right of action to enforce the BPCIA. The issues raised in Hospira’s motion to dismiss are currently before the Federal Circuit in Amgen’s and Sandoz’s petitions for rehearing en banc.
A final agreement has been reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that could provide for as little as five years of exclusivity for biologics. The final text of the agreement is not yet officially available and its exact contours are unclear, but reports indicate that it includes a complicated compromise providing for between five and eight years of exclusivity. This represents a setback for the United States, which sought twelve years of exclusivity throughout the negotiations. Industry groups have also expressed disappointment.
Amgen recently sued Apotex under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) over Apotex’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), a long-lasting version of Neupogen. This is the first BPCIA suit to reach the courts after completion of the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchange, the so-called patent dance. On October 5, 2015, Apotex filed its Answer with Counterclaims. Despite agreeing on which patents should be the subject of immediate patent infringement litigation under the BPCIA, Apotex now alleges that Amgen’s suit on one of those patents is sham litigation in violation of the Sherman Act.
Sandoz Inc. announced on October 2, 2015 that FDA accepted its regulatory application for a proposed biosimilar of Amgen Inc.’s biologic arthritis drug Enbrel for review. The acceptance comes years after Sandoz attempted to bypass the litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). It remains to be seen whether Sandoz now will follow the BPCIA and provide its regulatory application and other manufacturing information to Amgen since the Federal Circuit has recently held that doing so is optional in Amgen v. Sandoz, another case involving the same parties and the Federal Circuit’s first decision to interpret the BPCIA. Amgen is currently seeking en banc review of this ruling.
The FDA approved label for the first U.S. biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio, has raised concerns. Zarxio was launched on September 3, 2015 with a label that does not state that the product was approved as a biosimilar to Amgen’s Neupogen and that it has not been determined to be interchangeable to Neupogen. Instead, Zarxio’s label is nearly identical to that of Amgen’s Neupogen and does not identify the information provided by Sandoz to FDA to obtain Zarxio’s approval, including information on immunogenicity specific to Zarxio. AbbVie has supplemented its citizen petition urging FDA not to allow biosimilars to be labeled like generic drugs since biosimilars, unlike generic drugs, are not identical to the originator product and requesting distinct labeling for biosimilars. In briefing U.S. senators on September 17, FDA promised to issue guidance on labeling of biosimilars.
Defendants in Hatch-Waxman cases continue to contest personal jurisdiction outside of their "home" state, in reliance on the Supreme Court's decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman. Most district courts have rejected such arguments, and found that jurisdiction is proper in the patent owner's preferred forum based on consent-by-registration jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. Both theories of personal jurisdiction are on appeal before the Federal Circuit, and oral argument is likely to occur early in 2016. The lessons learned in the Hatch-Waxman context will provide guidance for litigation under the BPCIA.
On September 18, 2015, Amgen sued Hospira in a fourth lawsuit under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA). The lawsuit concerns Hospira’s proposed biosimilar of Amgen’s Epogen (epoetin alfa). Amgen filed the case in Delaware and it has been assigned to Judge Andrews. In addition to its claims for patent infringement, Amgen sued Hospira for failing to comply with the patent litigation provisions of the BPCIA. Hospira’s proposed biosimilar has not been licensed by FDA. FDA also has not announced plans for an advisory committee meeting for Hospira’s product.
The FDA has issued a long-awaited draft guidance document and proposed rule on the nonproprietary names for biosimilar medicines. FDA proposes to give biosimilars a “core name” shared with all related biological products and a four-letter suffix, unique to each product. The four-letter suffix, unlike the placeholder name for the first US biosimilar, Sandoz’s Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), does not identify the product’s manufacturer. Instead, it is a random collection of four letters, “devoid of meaning.” Patient groups and physicians have applauded FDA’s use of unique suffixes to differentiate biological products but innovator companies prefer meaningful suffixes, such as the one for Zarxio, and biosimilar manufacturers argue for no distinguishing names at all.
In Ariosa Diagnostics Inc. v. Sequenom Inc., 788 F.3d 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2015), a Federal Circuit panel held that Sequenom Inc.’s noninvasive prenatal diagnosis patent claims patent ineligible subject matter under the two-step test of Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012). Sequenom petitioned the court for rehearing en banc, arguing that the panel failed to consider the claimed method as a whole and that its analysis was therefore contrary to Supreme Court precedent. Sequenom’s petition received strong support from amici from numerous organizations, companies and academic groups. There were 12 amicus briefs in total, raising a variety of additional arguments in support of en banc review. On September 3, 2015, the court invited appellees to file a response to the petition for rehearing en banc.
In the first skirmishes between biosimilar makers and innovator companies, biosimilar makers attempted to bypass the litigation provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) through the filing of declaratory judgment actions, or by not participating in all or a subset of the BPCIA’s pre-suit information exchanges (also known as the “patent dance”). Apotex, the third biosimilar maker to file an application for approval of a biosimilar product with FDA, chose a different path. As Amgen’s recent lawsuit against Apotex reveals, Apotex is the first biosimilar applicant to participate in and complete the carefully orchestrated pre-suit information exchanges of the BPCIA.
Today, Sandoz (a Novartis subsidiary) launched the first biosimilar approved under the BPCIA: the cancer drug Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), which is a biosimilar version of Amgen’s Neupogen. The launch follows the Federal Circuit’s decision enjoining Sandoz from launching Zarxio for 180 days and the court’s recent denial of Amgen’s emergency motion to extend the injunction pending Amgen’s and Sandoz’s cross-petitions for rehearing en banc.
Today the Federal Circuit panel that decided Amgen v. Sandoz denied Amgen’s emergency motion for an injunction pending consideration of its petition for en banc review. The panel (Judges Lourie, Newman, and Chen) denied the motion without opinion, but did note that Judge Newman would have granted the motion.
A number of biosimilar makers have turned to inter partes review (IPR) proceedings to challenge innovator patents prior to submitting their biosimilar applications to FDA. IPRs have been attractive to biosimilar makers because in addition to offering procedural and substantive advantages for challenging patents they do not require the filing of a biosimilar application. As a result, they make it possible for biosimilar makers to obtain patent certainty at a time when litigation under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) is premature and, depending on the results of the IPRs, may be avoided entirely. The first such IPRs, however, are yielding mixed results, leaving potential patent disputes for later BPCIA litigation.
Last month, a divided panel of the Federal Circuit issued a split decision in Amgen v. Sandoz. Amgen is the court’s first decision interpreting the patent dispute resolution provisions of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA). But if the parties have their way, the panel decision will not be the Federal Circuit’s last word on the issues in dispute – and the court’s next intervention may come sooner rather than later. Last week, both parties petitioned for en banc rehearing of the panel’s decision. And on Wednesday, Amgen filed an emergency motion for an injunction pending en banc consideration and review, asking the full court to make a preliminary assessment of the issues before September 2, when the injunction issued by the original panel expires.
The latest round of talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed Pacific Rim free-trade agreement, has ended with disagreement on a number of key issues, including the non-patent exclusivity period for biologic medications.
Today, FDA published notice of Janssen’s lawsuit against Celltrion and Hospira on March 6, 2015 under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA) in the Federal Register. Although Janssen’s lawsuit is not the first action under the BPCIA, today marks the first time the FDA published notice of any BPCIA lawsuit.
In a victory for holders of method patents, the Federal Circuit issued an en banc decision yesterday expanding the scope of direct infringement when multiple parties perform different steps of an invention. In its unanimous Akamai Techs. v. Limelight Networks decision, the appeals court provided a fact-based test for determining when “all method steps can be attributed to a single entity” such that direct infringement can be found under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). Unlike the earlier panel decision that was overturned, the en banc court held that infringement can, in some circumstances, be attributed to a single entity even when there is an arms-length business relationship between that entity and the other parties that perform steps of the patented method.
Today, in Amgen Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., No. 2015-1499 (Fed. Cir. July 23, 2015), an historic case of first impression, a divided panel of the Federal Circuit interpreted the BPCIA. The court (per Judges Lourie and Chen) held that a biosimilar applicant can opt out of the BPCIA’s patent dance provisions by withholding its aBLA and manufacturing information, and that the only consequence of doing so is being subject to a patent infringement action on any patent that could have been listed during the patent dance. The court (per Judges Lourie and Newman) also held that a biosimilar applicant is required to provide a notice of commercial marketing under the BPCIA, and that such a notice can only be provided after the FDA has approved the biosimilar product. In short, both reference product sponsors and biosimilar manufacturers will find good and bad news in today’s decision.
Debate continues over the exclusivity period for biologics in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have weighed in on the inclusion of a 12-year exclusivity period in the free-trade agreement.
The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) provides for a series of disclosures between a biosimilar applicant and the innovator company, commonly referred to as the “patent dance.” In determining the standard and appropriate level of detail required by the disclosures pursuant to the patent dance, looking to analogous disclosure requirements in the Hatch-Waxman context provides helpful guidance. Gleaning from the Hatch-Waxman context, “detailed statement” disclosures under the BPCIA should have a reasonable basis and establish a prima facie case of invalidity or non-infringement. Moreover, as in the Hatch-Waxman context, filing “baseless” non-infringement or invalidity positions may risk sanctions as an “exceptional case” that may warrant attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285.
In Teva v. Sandoz, the Supreme Court held that findings of fact subsidiary to a claim construction decision are entitled to deference on appeal. Teva has the potential to transform claim construction proceedings, but the extent of the impact will depend on how it is applied by the Federal Circuit. Three recent Federal Circuit decisions give mixed signals about its post-Teva approach to appellate review.
The BPCIA created an abbreviated pathway for FDA approval of biological medicinal products that are “biosimilar” to an already FDA-approved product. The FDA recently approved the first U.S. biosimilar – Sandoz’s biosimilar of Amgen’s Neupogen – and is currently reviewing at least four other proposed biosimilars. Many innovators and biosimilars manufacturers are responding to the changing landscape for biologics by developing “biobetters”: new and improved versions of biologic medicinal products. While biobetters require discovery and an original Biologics License Application (BLA) with a full complement of pre-clinical and clinical data for marketing approval, they also offer many advantages. By offering superior and longer-acting medicine, biobetters provide a competitive advantage over biosimilar products. In addition, unlike biosimilars, they generally would be entitled to patent protection and 12 years of non-patent exclusivity under the BPCIA.
The Federal Circuit recently handed down a long-awaited Section 101 decision, one with potentially far-reaching consequences for biotech diagnostic patents. In Ariosa Diagnostics Inc. v. Sequenom Inc., No. 14-1139 (Fed. Cir. June 12, 2015), the Federal Circuit, applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s test for patent eligibility set out in Mayo Collaborative Servs. v. Prometheus Labs. Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012), invalidated Sequenom’s breakthrough patent on noninvasive prenatal diagnosis through the amplification and detection of paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA (“cffDNA”) in the blood of pregnant women. According to the court, “even such valuable contributions can fall short of statutory subject matter” under the test set out in Mayo. In addition to its implications for other biotech patents and investment in diagnostics, the Federal Circuit’s decision illustrates the potentially unintended consequences of Mayo and the need for a legislative solution so that breakthrough manmade inventions remain patent-eligible.
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