High court dashes Actelion's hopes for $407M reprieve in Tracleer case

Actelion has lost its fight against a $407 million court judgment. California's Supreme Court rebuffed the Swiss drugmaker's appeal in a lawsuit over competition for its top-selling drug, the pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) treatment Tracleer. That affirms a lower court's ruling that Actelion ($ATLN) intentionally thwarted a rival by acquiring a drug company and then spiking its prospective Tracleer competitor.

The court's decision, which came down on Wednesday, leaves intact $407 million in damages awarded to that rival, Asahi Kasei Pharma of Japan.

"Actelion is disappointed by the decision and strongly believe there are significant reasons why the Supreme Court should have reviewed the case. The judgment now stands," Actelion said in a statement.

The saga started in 2006, when Asahi partnered with a Bay-area biotech called CoTherix to develop oral and inhaled versions of its PAH drug, Fasudil. Five months later, Actelion bought CoTherix for $400 million and canceled the deal with Asahi, prompting the Japanese company to file suit.

Actelion said it believed Fasudil was unsafe, according to SFGate. But the company had good reason to worry about its position in the PAH market. Tracleer generates more than $1 billion in revenues per year and is responsible for the bulk of Actelion's sales. The company has been blamed for being overprotective of Tracleer in the past: Some generic drugmakers have sued Actelion for refusing to provide samples of its PAH product, throwing off their attempts to develop their own versions.

Actelion said it has already accounted for the $407 million damages award in its financial reports and there would be "no further adverse effect" to its results other than $10 million in accrued interest.

Meanwhile, Actelion is moving on from Tracleer, as it braces for the drug coming off patent in 2015. The company won FDA approval in October for its new PAH treatment, Opsumit, which was then green-lighted by European regulators three months later. Opsumit is facing quite a bit of competition, however, from the likes of Bayer's Adempas, Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) Letairis, United Therapeutics' ($UTHR) Remodulin and Pfizer's ($PFE) Revatio.

- here's the SFGate story
- read Actelion's statement