Lawyer & Partner
LGGA Pharma Update – 31 January 2024
On 23 January 2024, the Provisions Judge of the District Court of The Hague handed down a decision in the PI proceedings initiated by Janssen Biotech Inc. (“Janssen”) against Samsung Bioepis NL B.V. (“Samsung NL”). Janssen claimed that Samsung NL infringed its Stelara SPCs granted in Italy and Denmark. The Provisions Judge denied the PI as according to his preliminary assessment Samsung NL can benefit from the SPC Manufacturing Waiver.
Janssen’s SPC- Stelara
Janssen holds European patent EP 1 309 692 B1 (“EP 692”) for "ANTI-IL-12 Antibodies, compositions, methods and uses". The medicinal product of Janssen is marketed under the brand name ‘Stelara’ and contains the active ingredient ustekinumab. EP 692 was granted on 13 May 2009 in, among others, Italy and Denmark. The patent expired on 7 August 2021. After expiration, Janssen was granted a SPC in Italy, Denmark and the United Kingdom (UK – ending on 19 January 2024). Similar Stelara patents in Canada and South Korea have also expired. However, Jansen has filed patent(s) (applications) in these countries that protect the treatment regimen approved for Stelara for ulcerative colitis disease.
SPC Manufacturing Waiver
Samsung has developed a biosimilar of ustekinumab with Stelara as reference called SB17. Samsung NL issued a notice to the Danish and Italian authorities respectively that it intended to manufacture and stock its biosimilar in Denmark and Italy for the purpose of exporting it to the UK, Canada and South Korea based on Regulation 2019/933 regarding the SPC Manufacturing Waiver “MW Regulation”) and to market the product in the European Union after expiration of the SPC (stockpile exemption). Samsung NL mentioned that it would submit the reference numbers of its market authorisations in said countries as soon as publicly available. Samsung NL additionally undertook towards Janssen that it would not manufacture its biosimilar products for the EU-market until 24 January 2024 in order to avoid discussion on the stockpile exemption in the PI proceedings.
The PI Judge’s assessment of infringement
According to Janssen Samsung NL infringes its SPCs in Denmark and Italy and cannot benefit from the SPC Manufacturing Waiver because Samsung NL (i) did not specify the reference numbers of the marketing authorisations in the exporting countries, (ii) Janssen's patent rights are in force in the countries to which Samsung NL intends to export its biosimilar, and (iii) Samsung NL is not allowed under the SPC Manufacturing Waiver to store the biosimilar products. The PI Judge finds that according to the text of MW Regulation the manufacturer is obliged to provide the reference number of market authorisation, or the equivalent of such authorisation in each exporting third country, only as soon as it is publicly available.
This entails, according to the preliminary view of the Provisions Judge, that if this number is not yet publicly available, the manufacturer has the possibility to supplement the notification with the reference number of the marketing authorisation as soon as it is publicly available, as reflected in Article 5(5)(e) MW Regulation.
The Provisions Judge considers that the MW Regulation is sufficiently clear on this item. It is taken into account that the nature and the content of the provisions in question were extensively debated during the revision of the earlier SPC Regulation. The Provisions Judge is therefore of the opinion that it is not necessary to raise preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the EU on the application of the SPC Manufacturing Waiver, as suggested by Janssen. The fact that the District Court of Munich in the matter Janssen vs Formycon ruled differently on this matter does alter his view, especially because the Provisions Judge finds the reasoning of the District Court of Munich in said decision not convincing.
Janssen further argued that Samsung NL may not manufacture a biosimilar under the waiver because in the countries to which Samsung NL intendeds to export its product, patent rights are existing. The Provisions Judge considers that there is no requirement under the MW Regulation that the intended exporting countries are free of patent rights and/or that the manufacturer must prove this in advance. Such requirement would be contrary to the objective of the MW Regulation of ensuring a level playing field with global competition. If EU based manufacturers were only allowed to manufacture for export to countries that are ‘free of patents’ they would be put in a serious disadvantage compared to non-EU based competitors not subject to such restrictions.
In relation to the storage of the products the Provisions Judge states that it follows from the wording of Article 5(a)(a)(ii) of the MW Regulation that under the export exemption, ‘temporary storage’ is allowed. The MW Regulation does not specify a maximum period for such ‘temporary storage’ other than that it must be strictly necessary for the actual export.
The Provisions Judge is of the preliminary opinion that - contrary to the Janssen vs Formycon decision – a manufacturer of a biosimilar can rely on the SPC Manufacturing Waiver a) even if the market authorisation reference number is not yet publicly available, b) there are possible patents rights in the countries to which the product is exported and c) temporary storage of the products is possible when strictly necessary for the actual export.