As Amgen seeks to can Aimovig collaboration, Novartis sues to save the deal

Amgen is trying to back out of its collaboration with Novartis on Aimovig, Novartis says in a lawsuit. (Amgen)

Novartis and Amgen were the first to tap into a hot market with their CGRP migraine prevention drug Aimovig, but dueling lawsuits outline a serious division in the collaboration. Amgen is trying to cut the partnership less than a year into the drug’s launch, while Novartis has sued to save the deal.

Novartis on Thursday sued Amgen in Manhattan federal court for trying to inappropriately back out of their collaboration. Amgen originally had rights to the drug, but Novartis in 2015 partnered on Aimovig and has since spent $870 million on development and commercialization, the suit says. 

Amgen, for its part, sued back. The company says Novartis breached the agreement by helping bring a potential competitor to market. Novartis' Sandoz unit has teamed with Alder BioPharmaceuticals on a potential rival, Amgen says, so it moved to terminate the agreement. Sandoz is a contract manufacturing partner with Alder, according to Novartis' filing.

Novartis maintains it hasn’t breached its contract with Amgen and that it’s fully committed to the Aimovig rollout. Amgen is trying to back out of the deal and “deprive Novartis Pharma of its contractual right to share in the product’s success and recoup its significant investments,” the Swiss drugmaker said in the filing.

An Amgen spokeswoman said the company asked Novartis to fix the alleged breach of contract, but Novartis "refused" and instead "entered into an additional agreement with Alder committing to further manufacture the competing product." The collaboration is in place until the litigation plays out.

With its filing, Novartis wants to obtain a judgment that it hasn’t violated its collaboration agreements with Amgen and that Amgen’s “purported termination of the agreements is invalid and of no force and effect.” Amgen's lawsuit seeks a judgment against Novartis, plus damages and interest.

With an FDA approval in May, Amgen and Novartis last year became the first to reach the market in the hot new CGRP drug field with Aimovig. Already in the launch, the drug has reached 210,000 patients worldwide, according to Novartis. The partners are competing with Teva’s Ajovy and Eli Lilly’s Emgality, which won subsequent approvals.