No matter what happens with the biosimilar legislation, patent holders will have to go through their patent files carefully.
The current generic drug industry was born from the Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984. Among its creations, this Act accounts for a specialized form of patent litigation called Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) litigation. The Act defined an abbreviated approval process for small molecule drugs’ generics; however, it didn’t establish a structure for approving follow-on biologics, known as biosimilars and generic biologics. The US Congress is now studying legislation to create such a structure. If this legislation is ratified, it will most probably create a patent litigation structure very different from the ANDA form.
Through modern technologies, biologic drugs are isolated from living matter or produced in living cells. Biologics vary from small molecule drugs in various ways related to safety and product variability, aspects that are critical for the definition of an approval process for follow-on biologics:
– They are large and complex molecules or mixes of molecules.
– They are produced in living cells, offering great potential for greater variability based on the precise host cells or organisms used to create them, the growth conditions for culturing them, and the purification methods employed to isolate the biologic from contaminants.
– They show distinctive safety issues, like the possibility of producing negative immune responses.
Biologics are so complex and variable that it is difficult to define an approval process. These characteristics prevent the implementation of a therapeutic equivalence standard similar to the one used for small molecule generic drugs in the Hatch-Waxman Act. As an alternative, the standards of biosimilarity and interchangeability in HR 1427 and HR 1548 are proposed.
HR 1427 defines biosimilar as “no clinically meaningful difference between the biological product and the reference product would be expected in terms of safety, purity, and potency if treatment were to be initiated with the biological product instead of the reference product”. HR 1548 requires that a follow-on biologic candidate exhibits biosimilarity “based upon data derived from: analytical studies that demonstrate that the biological product is highly similar to the reference product, from animal studies, and from clinical studies that are sufficient to demonstrate safety, purity and potency”.
In regards to interchangeability, both HR’s agree in that the biological product should be biosimilar to the reference one, and that the patient should go from one to the other without risk.
The similarity standards proposed pose new issues for patent litigations because there is no requirement that the follow-on biologic should be identical to the reference product. Follow-on biologic candidates can say that their biologic doesn’t infringe any patents covering the reference product or its manufacturing process, and generic manufacturers may obtain approval on the basis of biosimilarity or interchangeability: it gives the same results but is different enough. In addition, the manufacturer will probably try to make the product in a different way from the patented process, creating concerns about the follow-on biologic not being truly biosimilar or interchangeable. It will certainly be a challenge for the reference product manufacturer to protect its investment.
In chain reaction, these possibilities will increase litigation costs, due to testing and characterization of the biologics, inspections of sites, and declarations of those involved. There will be lots of pharmaceutical consulting for sure.
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