Biosimilar Licensing

Jeff Simon, MJLST Staffer

On February 18th, Sandoz filed a petition for certiorari appealing to the supreme court to revisit the Federal Circuit’s holding in Amgen v. Sandoz. Prior to Sandoz’s petition for certiorari, the Federal Circuit denied a rehearing of the case en banc back on October 16th. Sandoz is seeking the Supreme Court to review the Federal Circuit’s holding that it could not market Zarxio, the biosimilar equivalent of Amgen’s patented biologic Neupogen, until 180 days after Zarxio received FDA approval.

Sandoz will most likely take the stance that the Federal Circuit misinterpreted the BPCIA and particularly 42 U.S.C § 262(l)(8)(A). This paragraph states that a subsection (k) biosimilar applicant seeking approval under the BPCIA shall provide notice of marketing to the reference product sponsor (biologic brand manufacturer) not later than 180 days before the date of the first commercial marketing of the licensed biological product. According to Sandoz, the Federal Circuit incorrectly held that notice shall not be given prior to FDA approval of the biosimilar. The Federal Circuit noted that the statute uses the term “licensed” biologic product, implying that the biosimilar must first obtain FDA licensure before notice of commercial marketing can be given. Sandoz argued that the statute does not require the biosimilar applicant to stay notice until 180 days of licensure, and that such an interpretation would grant the reference product sponsor a six-month extension of exclusivity on the biologic product. Accordingly, Sandoz contends that such an interpretation would result in consequences unintended by the drafters of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, stating that if such was the intention of Congress, the BPCIA would have been drafted to include a fourteen-and-a-half-year exclusivity period. It’s important to note that the Federal Circuit was unanimous regarding its decision on 180-day notice of commercial marketing.

Earlier, Amgen declined to seek a petition of certiorari regarding the Federal Circuit’s holding that the Patent Dance provisions of the BPCIA are not mandatory. However, on March 24, 2016, Amgen asked the Supreme Court to review both portions of the Federal Circuit’s opinion, including its holding regarding the Patent Dance provisions of the Act. Amgen’s cross petition came in response the Sandoz’s petition for certiorari. In its opinion, the Federal Circuit held that the information exchange and patent dispute resolution mechanisms of the BPCIA were not mandatory, and that a subsection (k) applicant may avoid these provisions subject to the consequences contemplated by the BPCIA.

Amgen v. Sandoz was the first case regarding these provisions of the BPCIA as Neupogen was the first marketed biologic to come of patent since the passing of the BPCIA. If the Supreme Court is to review the decision of the Federal Circuit, it may elect to delay until the decision of pending cases such as Amgen v. Apotex. Regardless, the possible grant of certiorari has important implications for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as a looming patent cliff is set for the biologics industry in the next 5 years.