Sanofi sues Novo over 'misleading' Tresiba marketing materials

Lantus

Sanofi and Novo Nordisk are battling for market share in an increasingly competitive insulin field. But the French company doesn’t think its rival has been playing by the rules.

Sanofi has sued Novo over the Danish drugmaker’s marketing materials for Tresiba, alleging that they falsely claimed Sanofi’s competing products—blockbuster Lantus and follow-up Toujeo—won’t be available to many U.S. patients down the line, Reuters reported. The pharma giant is seeking an order to force Novo to pay unspecified money damages and pull the materials in question.

At issue is CVS’ decision to knock Lantus and Toujeo off its 2017 preferred formulary, a move the PBM powerhouse announced over the summer. According to Sanofi’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the materials urged doctors and patients to make the change in treatment because Sanofi’s meds would supposedly be “blocked” come January.

The way Sanofi sees it, though, Novo’s statements about the drugs’ future availability are “false and misleading,” a spokeswoman told the news service. Plenty of health plans don’t go by CVS’ standard formulary, and some of those that do will likely continue covering the Sanofi options anyway, the company said. Sanofi also offers patient assistance to those buying its meds if insurance won’t cover them.

Unfortunately for Sanofi, though, Tresiba isn’t the only threat to its insulin lineup. Earlier this month, Eli Lilly rolled out Basaglar, a biosimilar to Lantus. And unlike Lantus and Toujeo, the copycat is on CVS’ preferred formulary for 2017—a switch that was no accident, with many payers eager to reap long-promised biosim cost savings.

Sanofi has been trying to lessen its reliance on diabetes through M&A lately, though so far, it’s come up empty. Back in the spring, it staged a hostile pursuit of Medivation, a company that Pfizer ultimately snapped up. And earlier this month, after Johnson & Johnson bowed out of takeover talks with Switzerland’s Actelion, Sanofi stepped in with its own bid—only to see Actelion turn around and restart the conversation with J&J.

Meanwhile, payer pressure in the diabetes arena has hurt Novo, too. In September, after cutting its sales and earnings guidance for the year, the company announced it would have to give 1,000 staffers the ax.