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Sunday 18 November 2018

Germany - District Court lifts several ex-parte preliminary injunctions granted for Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp.

Recently, the District Court in Düsseldorf lifted several ex-parte preliminary injunctions granted for Merck Sharpe & Dohme Corp. (MSD) against various generic companies. The District Court’s decision in German language can be found (HERE) as well as the English translation thereof (HERE). Phillip Rektorschek (Taylor Wessing) and Derk Vos (Maiwald), who acted i.a. for Hexal AG and 1A Pharma, have provided the following summary on the case: 
"Earlier this year MSD, based on SPC DE 12 2004 000 026.1, applied for preliminary injunctions against eight generic companies in order to prevent market entry of generic versions of MSD’s cholersterol-lowering combination product Inegy®. Inegy® is a fixed dose combination of the actives ingredients ezetimibe and simvastatin. While, the present SPC in question, DE 12 2004 000 026.1 is directed to a product covering ezetimibe or pharmaceutically acceptable salts thereof in combination with simvastatin, MSD had also held an earlier SPC in Germany on the very same basic patent EP 1 720 599 B1, which covered the mono-product of ezetimibe (tradename EZETROL®), which expired in April 2018. 
In May 2018 the District Court in Düsseldorf granted MSD ex-parte preliminary injunctions against the generic companies.  
Seven of these generic companies appealed against the preliminary injunction granted by the District Court. It was argued that the SPC-in-suit is invalid and was granted contrary to the requirements of Art. 3 a), 3 c) and 3 d) SPC-Regulation. 
With the decision of 1 October, 2018, these seven injunctions have now been lifted. According to the District Court’s assessment, the validity of SPC DE 12 2004 000 026.1 is not sufficiently secured and the SPC is expected to be invalidated. 
In the District Court’s opinion, the requirements of Art. 3 a) SPC-Regulation were fulfilled for the combination product in question, since the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin was mentioned in the claims as well as in the specification of the basic patent. Further, the skilled person would have known from the prior art that simvastatin would also be a suitable drug for reduction of cholesterol. Based on the fact that ezetimibe and simvastatin would act via a different mechanisms of action, the skilled person would expect achieving an additive effect with the administration of the two active ingredients. 
However, the District Court concluded that the requirements of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulations were not fulfilled for the product-in-suit. 
Contrary to MSD’s submission, ezetimibe would be the sole subject matter of the invention protected in the basic patent in an SPC specific meaning. The combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin would not be the core of the technical teaching of the basic patent and should therefore not be awarded a separate SPC. 
The Court made clear that according to their interpretation of the CJEU’s case law, an SPC should be granted for compensating for the duration of the authorization procedure but not for the effort/cost associated with the authorization procedure. Moreover, the extension of protection should only be granted once for a product which may be understood as an active ingredient or combination of active ingredients in the narrower meaning. This approach may lead to situations wherein a combination of active ingredients is in fact considered to be protected in the meaning of Art. 3 a) SPC-Regulaiton, but in view of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulation there should only be awarded an SPC if a product represents the core inventive advance of the basic patent at its priority date. 
This requirement was considered not to be fulfilled in the present case since the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin is not the core inventive advance of the basic patent, but only ezetimibe. According to the District Court, the technical contribution for which the SPC should be rewarded must represent the actual technical teaching of the basic patent. In particular for combination preparations, the combination must address a specific problem in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of a disease, for which the technical solution must be different from the solution provided by the mono product.In the District Court’s opinion not only a synergism of the two actives would qualify for such a different effect but also a reduction of side effects or the like, under the condition that this effect is different from the one observed for the mono-product. However, for the difference relied upon, there must be disclosure in the basic patent at the priority date. Referring to the recent decision C-121/17 – Teva, the District Court stated that it is not sufficient that such differences or effects were only revealed during the authorization procedure. In such a case the aim of the Regulation, namely to compensate for the duration of the authorization procedure would not be fulfilled. 
The District Court further stated that also the other effects relied upon by the Claimant were not disclosed in the basic patent and have been classified as “surprising” by the Claimant itself. It is therefore apparent, that the effect relied upon by the Claimant are based on additional insight gained only during the authorization procedure, but are not disclosed in the basic patent. 
Moreover, in the Court’s view the fact that the majority of the relevant clinical studies for the marketing authorization of the combination product were already conducted for the authorization of the mono-product aggrevates the situation. Only marginal additional data on the effectiveness were provided with the marketing authorization for the combination product, which, however, did not provide any additional gain in knowledge in view of the data contained in the earlier authorization of the mono-product Ezetrol®.
According to the District Court, the mere fact that the combination is provided as a “fixed dose” cannot chance the situation, since it was known to the skilled person at the priority date that patient compliance is improved by fixed dose preparations. In addition, there is no indication that the provision of the fixed dose preparation was associated with any difficulties for the skilled person. 
Summarizing, the District Court found that the SPC was granted contravening the requirements of Art. 3 c) SPC-Regulation and thus the validity of the SPC is not secured and therefore the preliminary injunctions had to be revoked."
MSD has filed an appeal against the first instance decision.

Many thanks to Derk Vos and Philip Rektorschek!

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