Teva Sues Sanofi’s Genzyme Unit Over Worker-Raid Claims

Genzyme Corp. was sued by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) over claims the biotechnology company and a former Teva employee violated a non-solicitation agreement by encouraging workers to move to Genzyme.

Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., the company’s U.S. unit, contends Genzyme, a unit of Sanofi, allowed ex-Teva sales manager Kevin Middleton to lure 11 former colleagues after he left the generic drugmaker in April, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Philadelphia. Teva also accused Middleton of giving his new employer confidential data about its best-selling multiple sclerosis drug, Copaxone.

Middleton breached the terms of his separation agreement and Genzyme has “benefited and continues to benefit from Middleton’s disclosure and use of Teva’s confidential information,” the drugmaker claimed.

Sanofi (SAN), France’s largest drugmaker, purchased Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Genzyme, the biggest maker of medicines for rare genetic disorders, last year for $20.1 billion. In April, Sanofi said first-quarter profit rose 13 percent, helped by the Genzyme purchase.

Jack Cox, a U.S.-based spokesman for Paris-based Sanofi, said yesterday he couldn’t immediately comment on Teva’s lawsuit.

$134,000 Payment

Middleton, of Henderson, Tennessee, oversaw sales of Copaxone, a drug used to reduce the frequency of relapses in multiple sclerosis patients, for most of his more than eight years at Teva, according to the complaint. The drug generated sales of $3.9 billion in 2011 and accounted for 21 percent of the Petach Tikva, Israel-based company’s revenue.

When Middleton left Teva in April, he signed an agreement that barred him from disclosing proprietary information about Copaxone’s sales efforts or attempting to solicit his former colleagues, according to the complaint. Teva said in the filing it agreed to pay Middleton more than $134,000 for signing the pact and provided continuing health benefits.

Genzyme officials, who are seeking approval for competing MS drugs, wanted to assemble a sales team to market the medicines, Teva claimed. Consequently, they “raided Teva’s highly trained and highly successful sales force” that sells and promotes Copaxone, the company said in its lawsuit.

Customer Lists

Middleton allegedly used Teva’s confidential information, including customer lists and performance reviews of sales staff, to help recruit almost a dozen of his former colleagues in less than two months.

Most had worked on Copaxone’s marketing campaign, Teva claimed.

Teva is asking a judge to bar Genzyme from using any of its confidential information gleaned from Middleton and to order its competitor to stop soliciting Teva employees for a year. Teva also is seeking unspecified damages.

“Teva has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm and loss” from Middleton’s and Genzyme’s actions, the company’s lawyers said in the suit.

The case is Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. v. Middleton, 12- cv-04298, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

To contact the reporter on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at jfeeley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.