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Biogen Idec sues for patent infringement

The world's leading MS therapy producer has filed a lawsuit against Bayer, Pfizer and Merck's Serono unit for patent royalties

In a complaint filed May 28 in the federal court in Newark, New Jersey, the world's leading producer of multiple sclerosis (MS) therapies, Biogen Idec, is seeking a judgment against Bayer, Pfizer and Merck's Serono unit for patent violation, and is claiming royalties on drugs similar to its Avonex (Interferon beta-1a) treatment.

Biogen Idec claims that the drugs Rebif (promoted by Pfizer and Serono), Betaseron (Bayer), and a version of Betaseron sold as Extavia by Novartis, infringe a patent issued in September 2009, which it says covers Avonex and other beta interferon treatments for MS.

The company states that despite offers to license this patent to other makers of beta interferon MS products, no agreements have been reached.

Through this legal action, Biogen Idec is claiming royalties amounting to 8.5 per cent on Betaseron, which is reported to generate more than $1bn a year in sales.

Rebif generated global sales of $2.1bn in 2009, and Extavia achieved $20m in the first quarter. Novartis received approval last year to sell Extavia and currently pays royalties to Bayer.

Last year Avonex accounted for 53 per cent of Biogen Idec's revenue, generating a total of $2.3bn in sales.

Bayer says it will "vigorously defend itself" against the suit and on May 27 filed its own lawsuit in the same court seeking a ruling that the patent is invalid or was therefore not infringed.

Bayer is also involved in seperate court proceedings after filing a suit against Teva over a generic version of contraceptive pill, Yaz.

2nd June 2010

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