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Biogen Idec sues rivals over MS drug, seeking royalties

By Susan Decker
Bloomberg News / June 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Biogen Idec Inc., the world’s largest maker of medicines for multiple sclerosis, sued Bayer AG, Pfizer Inc., and Merck KGaA’s Serono unit for patent royalties on drugs similar to its Avonex treatment.

Biogen Idec claims the drugs Rebif promoted by Pfizer and Serono, Bayer’s Betaseron, and a version sold by Novartis AG as Extavia infringe a patent issued in September. The complaint was filed May 28 in federal court in Newark.

“We believe our patent covers Avonex and other beta interferon treatments for multiple sclerosis,’’ said Christina Chan, a Biogen Idec spokeswoman. “We did offer to license this patent to other makers of beta interferon MS products, but no agreement was reached.’’

Avonex generated $2.3 billion in sales last year, 53 percent of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen Idec’s revenue. Bayer, Germany’s largest drug maker, filed a lawsuit May 27 in the same court, seeking a ruling that the patent is invalid or not infringed.

Biogen Idec has demanded royalties of as much as 8.5 percent on sales of Betaseron, which generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue, Bayer said in its complaint.

Rebif, sold by New York-based Pfizer and Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck, had global sales of $2.14 billion in 2009, according to Bloomberg data.

Novartis received approval last year to sell Extavia and pays royalties to Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer. Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland, said Extavia generated $20 million in sales in the first quarter.