Almirall comes out on top in spat
Madrid/Ingelheim – Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim has cleared the way for Spanish rival Almirall and ended a long-standing patent squabble, although the reconciliation was not exactly voluntary. Behind the scenes, the European Commission had to help prod the process along.
The row between Almirall and Boehringer began in 2003, when the German firm filed patent applications for new treatments of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CODP). These applications related to combinations of three broad categories of active substances for treating COPD, along with a new active substance that had been discovered by the Spanish biopharmaceutical company. Almirall duly objected, stating that the patents were “unmeritous”, and if granted would hinder the market entry of its own combination medicines. In 2007, the EU Commission opened an investigation.
Three years later, it suggested in 2010 that the rivals find a mutually acceptable solution to their dispute that would also conform to EU antitrust rules. In early July, the two finally reached a deal when Boehringer agreed to remove the alleged ‘blocking’ positions. With the agreement, all pending litigation is to come to an end, and the EU will drop its investigation. Almirall now has the all-clear to launch its own combination drugs following marketing authorisation. The Spanish company did not disclose exactly which substances are being considered longer term.
Just weeks after the deal however, Almirall submitted a marketing authorisation application to the EMA for aclidinium bromide, an inhaled muscarinic antagonist for the treatment of COPD. Boehringer is the market leader in the treatment of the disease. Its blockbuster drug Spiriva (tiotropium) achieved worldwide turnover totalling nearly EUR3bn in 2010.