GSK sues Pfizer for men B vaccine patent infringement in Ireland

Justice statue with sword and scales

A top court in Ireland will hear claims brought by GlaxoSmithKline that Pfizer’s competing meningitis vaccine infringes on its Bexsero patents, according to a local report. For GSK, the suit follows a “fantastic” quarter for its fast-growing men B shot, an important growth cog acquired in its massive Novartis asset swap.

The Irish Times reports that the country’s Commercial Court will hear a case brought by GSK claiming that Pfizer’s Trumenba breaches four Bexsero patents. Among other requests, the London-based pharma company has asked the court for an injunction and damages, according to the newspaper. GSK has also asked the court to force Pfizer to destroy or forfeit vaccines it's made, the publication notes.

GSK "firmly believes in the strength of its claims against Pfizer for patent infringement and will continue to take the appropriate steps, including legal action, to protect its intellectual property," a spokesperson told FiercePharma.

For its part, Pfizer confirmed the action in a statement, further saying it believes GSK's "patents are invalid and not infringed." The New York pharma "will pursue the action vigorously," according to a spokesperson.

In GSK’s most recent quarterly results, Bexsero more than doubled global revenues versus last year’s third quarter to £133 million ($164 million). But execs think the shot’s potential is just getting tapped, as they told analysts on a conference call. GSK is “in very, very early days of this marketplace,” CEO Andrew Witty said at the time.

To accommodate the vaccine’s potential--and in the face of increasing demand--GSK plans to sock money into a “multiyear” supply chain program to beef up capacity. Earlier this year, private clinics in the U.K. experienced a shortage that GSK cleared up in March.

So far, the U.K., Spain and Italy have been important markets for Bexsero, among other countries, Witty said on the third-quarter call.

For its part, Pfizer’s vaccines unit relies on the big-selling Prevnar family of vaccines much more than Trumenba, which actually beat out Novartis to securing FDA approval back in 2014. In third-quarter results, Pfizer's vaccines failed to match the growth posted by other top players in the space. Pfizer manufactures Trumenba in Ireland, according to the Irish Times report.