U.K. trust sues UCB for royalties on Cimzia

UCB could end up paying Cimzia royalties to a U.K. charitable trust. The Mathilda and Terence Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology Trust has sued the Belgian drugmaker for patent infringement in a case that mirrors earlier fights with Amgen and Wyeth.

The trust claims that it has the patent on combining drugs like Cimzia--and the Amgen/Wyeth drug Enbrel--with methotrexate. So, by promoting Cimzia for use in that combination, UCB is stepping on the trust's patent, the lawsuit claims. The trust's suit against Amgen and Wyeth was later withdrawn amid speculation that the two companies had agreed to pay royalties.

The trust states in its lawsuit that "Centocor, Abbott Laboratories, Amgen and Wyeth have paid to Kennedy tens of millions of dollars in royalties," so that speculation was right on. Now, the question is whether UCB will follow suit. Cimzia is forecast to grow to a $2 billion product, Reuters reports.

But the larger question is whether the trust's patent on discovering that two drugs work well in combination could be extended to other drug classes and combinations. After all, there are plenty of cancer meds that are add-ons to regular chemotherapy and HIV drugs that are dosed in combination. Does this mean that anytime a new class of meds is developed--and is designed to work in concert with other drugs--the first drugmaker to the patent office could get protection for that combo?

- read the Reuters story