Best way for Teva to deal with Copaxone threat? Settle, analyst urges

After losing a lengthy legal battle to keep generics of star multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone off the market, Teva is up against challengers hoping to knock off its long-acting form of the med, too. And one analyst has some advice for the Israeli drugmaker: Settle.

Teva could ease the blow to earnings and soothe investor uncertainty if it strikes an agreement with long-acting Copaxone's biggest threat--Novartis's Sandoz unit and Momenta Pharmaceuticals, which are developing the leading copy together, Leerink Partners analyst Jason Gerberry figures.

Teva has already seen two of its anchor patents on the product upturned, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's inter partes review process. Two newer patents that have yet to go through that process “add little value,” Gerberry wrote to clients Tuesday.

And the Sandoz/Momenta team could stage an at-risk launch of its generic as early as next year’s second quarter. That's a real possibility, Gerberry believes, because “any company with a lead to market may look to consider more aggressive options for speeding up market access to the ~$3B U.S. brand.”

The thrice-weekly version of Copaxone has been key to Teva’s strategy for protecting its leading franchise. In a stroke of good luck, Teva won FDA approval for the new iteration just in time to convert a majority of patients before the original med’s IP shield went down. Sandoz and Momenta have since seen slow going for that original knockoff version, Glatopa.

But it didn’t take long for the pair to go after the new Copaxone, too--and now, Gerberry says, a pact that lets the companies enter the market in the first quarter of 2018--beginning with limited launch quantities--is an “ideal scenario” for Teva.

Such an accord would “bridge the company to the launch of some of its high proprietary pipeline brands,” giving it a chance to bulk up sales of its other specialty brands before Copaxone generics descend in full force.

On that front, Teva is also looking to M&A. The company will be scouting “attractive specialty assets, or branded drug assets or pipeline assets” that fit in with the therapeutic areas it’s already tackling, including pain, neurodegenerative and respiratory, CEO Erez Vigodman recently told Bloomberg.

And on the other side of the company, Teva is making strides in its own generics business, which recently got a major boost with the addition of Allergan’s knockoffs portfolio. 

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