French drugs firm takes legal steps to prevent the launch of rival versions of its diabetes treatment
PARIS— Sanofi SA said it filed a lawsuit against Merck & Co. for alleged patent infringements to prevent the U.S. drugmaker from launching a rival version of the French pharmaceutical giant’s best-selling diabetes treatment Lantus.
In the filing in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, Sanofi said on Monday it claims that Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., Merck & Co.’s international division, violated as many as 10 patents held by the French company, including ones for its insulin Lantus and its insulin delivery device soloSTAR.
The Paris-based drugs company said it started the legal proceedings against Merck after the U.S. firm’s filing for new drugs applications with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
A spokeswoman for Merck said the company’s product “doesn’t infringe Sanofi’s patents.”
Sanofi shares were 1.3% higher at €69.91 in midday trading.
The French drugmaker’s all-important diabetes business is under siege, as a flurry of pharmaceutical companies seek to sell knockoffs of its blockbuster insulin Lantus in the U.S. The expected launch of lower-cost copies of Lantus and growing pricing pressure on diabetes drugs in the U.S. is rapidly eroding earnings at Sanofi’s diabetes division, which accounts for about 20% of the firm’s total revenue.
In the first six months of the year, diabetes revenue fell by 6% to €2.9 billion ($3.2 billion), hit by a 15% drop in Lantus sales to €2.38 billion. The company has said it expects revenue from diabetes drugs to continue to decline this as competition among insulin makers intensifies.
In January 2014, Sanofi filed a suit against Eli Lilly & Co. to defend its patents on Lantus. It had reached a deal with the U.S. drugmaker nearly two years later, under which Lilly agreed to delay the launch of its insulin to December 2016 and pay royalties to Sanofi.
In a bid to replenish its new drugs pipeline and revive growth, Sanofifor months had pursued U.S. biotech Medivation—a Nasdaq-listed company that focuses on hard-to-treat cancers, markets one prostate-cancer therapy, Xtandi, and has two other oncology assets in clinical development.