Amgen Wins Patent Suit Over Anemia Drug

A Boston jury Tuesday found that the patents on Amgen's top-selling anemia drugs are valid, blocking Roche from launching a rival medicine in the United States and sending Amgen shares up more than 2 percent.

The jury, following a six-week trial in U.S. District Court in Boston, found all of Amgen's patent claims were valid and that Roche's drug infringed three of them.

Judge William Young, who presided over the trial, had previously issued a pretrial ruling that Roche's Mircera infringes the most important of Amgen's patents that were in dispute. The jury would have had to find that patent invalid for Roche to have any chance of prevailing.

Amgen's anemia drugs, Aranesp and Epogen, generated sales in 2006 of nearly $7 billion, roughly half of Amgen's total revenue. The drugs, used to combat anemia in chemotherapy and kidney patients, are man-made versions of a human hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, that stimulates production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

The judge said that if Roche wishes to contest the ruling, it must file briefs within 60 days. Roche said it was evaluating its legal options, including a possible appeal. A Roche executive had said earlier this month that it would not launch the drug in the United States if it lost the trial.

Sales of Amgen's drugs were already being hit by concerns they were being overused and are facing new restrictions from government agencies and insurance companies.

Eric Schmidt, an analyst with Cowen, said the Amgen win was somewhat expected given the judge's earlier ruling on infringement, but that a loss could have really hurt.

"To have your anemia business already on the rocks because of safety issues and then to be facing a competitor in that marketplace, that would have been very tough for Amgen," Schmidt said.

During the trial, Roche had maintained that its drug not only did not infringe Amgen's patents but it sought to convince the jury that the Amgen patents were invalid.

Amgen insisted its patents are valid, based on innovations made by one of its scientists.

"This is a long-sought and well-deserved vindication for Amgen," said the company's lead attorney, Lloyd "Rusty" Day.

The judge set Nov. 15 for a hearing on possible remedies.

Amgen said it plans to seek an injunction to prevent Roche from importing Mircera into the United States in violation of its upheld patents.