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Long-running, $2.5bn lawsuit swings in Gilead’s favour

Published on 19/02/18 at 09:50am

The fate of pharma company’s profits and losses largely rests on product approvals and the sales team behind them but, when a record fine is looming over a company, it can also be dependent on the court rooms.

Gilead will be breathing a sigh of relief, after a judge overturned a record $2.54 billion decision against it. The case was brought by MSD, known as Merck in North America, regarding Gilead’s blockbuster hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni.

MSD had alleged that Gilead infringed its patents and had initially won the case in December of 2016.

However, on appeal, the judge sided with Gilead that MSD’s patent did not meet a requirement that it disclose how to make the treatment it covered without undue experimentation.

The details of the case stretch back nearly a decade, with the issue really beginning in 2009 after Idenix Pharmaceuticals was issued a patent for a compound that MSD is claiming is an integral part of Gilead’s hep C treatments.

Idenix had tried to block sales of Gilead’s Sovaldi, by launching a court case in 2013, after the company received approval to market the treatment.

Idenix was then snapped up by MSD, for $3.85 billion in 2014, and the big pharma company carried on the fight.

“We believe the judge’s ruling does not reflect the facts of the case,” STAT quoted an MSD spokesperson as saying. “The patent at issue in this case facilitated significant advances in the treatment of patients with HCV infection, and achieving these advancements required many years of research and significant investment by our subsidiary and its partners.”

Gilead has had a huge amount of financial success from the two treatments involved in the case; the treatments have revolutionised treatment for hep C, which can cause serious damage to the liver.

The biotech’s treatments for hep C boast over a 90% cure rate, which has led to blockbuster sales – reaping $9 billion in 2017, even with patient population groups beginning to dwindle.

Ben Hargreaves

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