Roche escapes lawsuit claiming it illegally quashed Biocad's biosimilar hopes

An appeals court tossed a lawsuit from a Russian drugmaker accusing Roche of anticompetitive conduct. (Roche)

Roche has once again escaped a lawsuit claiming it went to illegal lengths to block biosimilars to its top-selling cancer meds.

Russia’s Biocad sued Roche in 2016, claiming the Swiss drugmaker attacked its operations in that country to thwart its biosimilar ambitions in the U.S. A district court nixed the lawsuit in 2017 and now, an appeals court has upheld that decision, citing the fact that most of the alleged law-breaking took place in Russia.

In its suit, Biocad alleged Roche sought to hurt it financially at home so the company wouldn’t be able to afford to enter the U.S. market with its copycat versions of Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin.

Roche did so, Biocad alleged, by slashing prices in Russia, raising prices in the U.S., limiting distribution of drug samples to hinder its biosim development and using a “bundling” scheme, where buyers were tied to multiple Roche drugs if they purchased one. 

After reviewing the arguments, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York court tossed the lawsuit for failure to state a claim. Had Biocad adequately pleaded its case, the alleged antitrust violations still happened on foreign soil, the court said. 

RELATED: Another hit for Roche: UnitedHealthcare backs Amgen biosims over blockbuster oncology meds 

Biocad appealed, and this week the higher court upheld that decision. “[W]e agree with the district court that the foreign nature of Biocadʹs alleged injuries places its claims beyond the reach of United States antitrust laws,” the judges wrote.  

The decision marks a legal loss for Biocad just as the U.S. biosimilars market for Herceptin and Avastin ramps up. Amgen recently launched biosimilars to the cancer blockbusters and picked up a coverage win from UnitedHealthcare.  

For Amgen, those biosim efforts are paying off. In the third quarter, Amgen reported $173 million in biosimilar sales, a major increase that helped offset declines elsewhere.