J&J Wins Trial Challenging Abbott Patents on Psoriasis Drug

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) won its challenge to two Abbott Laboratories (ABT) patents on antibodies that help curb the effects of the painful skin disease psoriasis.

A federal jury in Worcester, Massachusetts, today said the patent claims were invalid. U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor had ruled in March that J&J’s Stelara drug infringed the patents. Had the jury found in Abbott’s favor, the case would have proceeded to determine how much J&J should pay.

The patents in the case are for human antibodies that control a substance called interleukin-12, or IL-12, that regulates the immune system. Overproduction of the substance triggers an overactive immune system response, which in turn causes excess skin cells that pile up and form painful and disfiguring plaques, according to the complaint.

“We believe our patents are valid and are evaluating our options, including a possible appeal,” said Adelle Infante, a spokeswoman for Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott.

J&J argued that Abbott didn’t properly explain what it claimed to have invented, and the inventions covered obvious variations of earlier know-how that relied on standard research methods. J&J’s Janssen Biotech unit said it was pleased that the jury agreed.

“We will continue to vigorously defend all intellectual property for Stelara,” said Monica Neufang, a spokeswoman for Janssen.

Psoriasis Drug

Stelara, whose chemical name is ustekinumab, generated $281 million in U.S. sales in the first six months of the year, a 37 percent increase over the year-ago period, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J said July 17. That’s 0.9 percent of total sales for the period.

Abbott has been working on its own drug, known as briakinumab, for severe psoriasis. In January 2011, the company withdrew its application to get the drug approved in the U.S. and Europe, after regulators called for more analysis and possible new studies.

The Stelara suit was filed in 2009, after J&J won a record $1.67 billion patent-infringement verdict against Abbott over a process used to make Abbott’s arthritis drug Humira. A U.S. appeals court last year threw out the verdict -- the largest in U.S. history -- after saying the J&J patents were invalid.

Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott has another case pending against J&J over the arthritis medicine Simponi, which generated $410 million last year for J&J. That case is pending, also in Worcester.

The Stelara case is Abbott GmbH & Co. v. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., 09cv11340 and the Simponi case is Abbott Biotechnology Ltd. v. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., 09cv40089, both U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Worcester).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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