Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. issued a press release last week discussing the abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) containing a Paragraph IV certification for COPAXONE® (glatiramer acetate injection), filed by Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. Teva announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan Inc. and Natco Pharma Ltd. for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Mylan’s filing of an ANDA for what they are calling a generic version of COPAXONE® was not unexpected, as the company announced its intention to do so over a year ago. Teva received Mylan’s Paragraph IV certification notice referring to Teva’s U.S. Patents, which cover the chemical composition of COPAXONE®, pharmaceutical compositions containing it, and methods of using it. These patents are listed in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Orange Book and extend through May 24, 2014. While the press release and news accounts have not identified the patents in question, the prescribing information flyer available on copaxone.com lists the following patents as covering the drug — U.S. Patent Nos. 5981589, 6054430, 6342476, 6362161, 6620847, 6939539 and 7199098.
According to the press release, Teva will vigorously defend its COPAXONE® intellectual property rights against infringement wherever they are challenged and intends to pursue all relevant regulatory avenues via the FDA. Teva’s lawsuit has been filed within the 45-day period provided under the Hatch-Waxman legislation and will triggers a stay of FDA approval for the Mylan ANDA until the earlier of the expiration of a period of 30 months or a district court decision in favor of Mylan.
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According to Teva, COPAXONE® is a highly-complicated product to develop and manufacture, and given the inability to fully characterize the active ingredients of COPAXONE®, the company doubts any generic applicant’s ability to demonstrate conclusively that the composition of its product is identical to that of COPAXONE®. In fact, Teva contends that any company that files an application for any glatiramoid substance, via an ANDA or 505(b)(2) application, should conduct full-scale, placebo-controlled clinical trials with measured clinical endpoints in MS patients to establish safety, efficacy and immunogenicity in this patient population. Internal research at Teva has indicated that even minor changes in the synthetic process and/or molecular weight distribution of a glatiramoid can have severe ramifications on the safety and mechanism of action of the product.
The patents covering COPAXONE® all seem exceptionally similar, which is not to be unexpected. The earliest patent, which appears to be the parent that spawned the others, explains that COPAXONE® is a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, and is an apparently a significant improvement on the prior art. The patent explains:
Copolymer-1 is a synthetic polypeptide analog of myelin basic protein (MBP), which is a natural component of the myelin sheath. It has been suggested as a potential therapeutic agent for multiple sclerosis (Eur. J. Immunol.  1:242; and J. Neurol. Sci.  31:433). All references cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. Interest in copolymer-1 as an immunotherapy for multiple sclerosis stems from observations first made in the 1950’s that myelin components such as MBP prevent or arrest experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). EAE is a disease resembling multiple sclerosis that can be induced in susceptible animals.
Copolymer-1 was developed by Drs. Sela, Arnon, and their co-workers at the Weizmann Institute (Rehovot, Israel). It was shown to suppress EAE (Eur. J. Immunol.  1:242; U.S. Pat. No. 3,849,550). More recently, copolymer-1 was shown to be beneficial for patients with the exacerbating-remitting form of multiple sclerosis (N. Engl. J. Med.  317:408). Patients treated with daily injections of copolymer-1 had fewer exacerbations and smaller increases in their disability status than the control patients.
Copolymer-1 is a mixture of polypeptides composed of alanine, glutamic acid, lysine, and tyrosine in a molar ratio of approximately 6:2:5:1, respectively. It is synthesized by chemically polymerizing the four amino acids forming products with average molecular weights of 23,000 daltons (U.S. Pat. No. 3,849,550).
It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved composition of copolymer-1.
The Israel based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is among the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world and perhaps the leading generic pharmaceutical company in the world, which is in itself ironic. COPAXONE® sales totaled $2.3 billion in 2008, accounting for over 20% of total revenues for Teva. Moving forward COPAXONE® was expected to account for an even larger percentage of Teva’s revenues. Presently Teva pays French drug company Sanofi-Aventis royalties even though Teva is solely responsible for marketing in North America. Teva must pay Sanofi-Aventis royalties into 2010 as a result of a deal between the companies dating back to April 2008. Thus, at a time when COPAXONE® was to become far more important to Teva it would be potentially devastating to the company to face generic competition. For now at least Teva will enjoy the market to itself, at least for the next 30 months.