A niche blog dedicated to the issues that arise when supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) extend patents beyond their normal life -- and to the respective positions of patent owners, investors, competitors and consumers. The blog also addresses wider issues that may be of interest or use to those involved in the extension of patent rights. You can email The SPC Blog here

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

SPCs and medical devices: disappointment for Cerus

Via this post by Darren Smyth (EIP) on the IPKat weblog comes news of two SPC applications in the name of Cerus Corporation: SPC/GB/07/043 and SPC/GB/07/044.  The outcome of both applications was that authorisation to place a product on the market as a medical device under Directive 93/42 cannot be considered equivalent to authorisation under the medicinal products Directive, Directive 2001/83.  Accordingly, the two applications were held not to comply with Article 3(b) of the SPC Regulation, which requires "a valid authorisation to place the product on the market as a medicinal product has been granted in accordance with Directive 2001/83/EC or Directive 2001/82/EC, as appropriate".  Darren observes that this appears to be the majority view around Europe, though there are some conflicting cases in the Netherlands and Germany where the assessment processes were held to be equivalent and SPCs were allowed.  

The Cerus Corporation decision, dated 31 March, is summarised on the UK IPO website as follows:

EC Design Examination Certificate No. G7 02 05 16178 063 was filed in support of SPC application SPC/GB/07/043 for “Platelet preparation obtainable by addition, and subsequent photoactivation, of amotosalen or its salt, to a suspension of platelets in plasma”. EC Design Examination Certificate No. G7 06 09 60562 004 was filed in support of SPC application SPC/GB/07/044 for “Platelet preparation obtainable by addition to plasma, and photoactivation, of amotosalen or its salt”. These EC Design Examination Certificates relate to medical devices that meet the criteria of Article 1(4) of Directive 93/42/EEC because they relate to a device that incorporates, as an integral part, a substance which, if used separately, may be considered to be a medicinal product and which acts upon the body with action ancillary to that of the device. As a consequence, they fall within class III medical devices and the safety, quality and usefulness of the substance must be verified, taking account of the intended purpose of the device, by analogy with the appropriate methods specified in the medicinal products legislation (Directive 2001/83/EC). Class III devices have the highest risk potential in terms of the vulnerability of the human body (taking account of the potential risks associated with the technical design and manufacture of the device). Explicit prior authorization with regard to conformity is required for such devices to be placed on the market. As a consequence of the need to assess the substance as part of the assessment of the device overall, the applicant argued that these EC Design Examination Certificates can, as a consequence, be considered to meet the requirements of Art 3(b) of the SPC regulation, i.e. they represent a valid authorization to place, on the market as a medicinal product, the product for which an SPC has been applied for.
The hearing officer reviewed the SPC regulation and the relevant parts of the medical devices and medicinal products directives. He took account of the purpose of both codes, the means by which medicinal products and medical devices deliver their principle mode of action, and the actual performance that is being assessed under both codes. He concluded that the assessment carried out in relation to the substance, i.e. the safety, quality and usefulness of the substance, when considered in light of the means by which the medical device delivers its action and considering the process by which a device is approved, including the roles of notified bodies and competent bodies, means that the conformity assessment procedure for a class III medical device is not the same as or equivalent to the process carried out to authorise a medicinal product for human use.
As a consequence, the SPC applications were found not to meet the requirements of Article 3(b) and were rejected under Article 10(2) of the SPC Regulation. 
As ever, readers' comments are invited and appreciated.

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