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Celgene to Get Canada High Court Hearing Over Thalomid Pricing

Celgene Corp., the biotechnology company specializing in blood-cancer medicines, will get a hearing before Canada’s highest court over the country’s demands to provide pricing information for the drug Thalomid.

The Supreme Court of Canada today agreed to hear Celgene’s appeal of a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that said Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board was entitled to information about the pricing of the drug. The high court gave no reason for its decision.

Celgene’s two top-selling drugs are Revlimid and Thalomid, for a form of blood-cancer called multiple myeloma. They brought in more than 80 percent of the company’s total $2.25 billion in 2008 revenue. Celgene didn’t have approval to sell Thalomid in Canada, although it had permission from regulators to provide the medicine to Canadian doctors for emergency treatment.

The appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling on Dec. 23, said the price review board “has a legitimate interest” in the price paid for the medicine “because this is the price that will be paid for the medicine by the ultimate consumer in Canada.”

Celgene, based in Summit, New Jersey, had argued the drug was sold at its New Jersey plant and shipped to the Canadian doctors. As a result, Celgene said the review board didn’t have the jurisdiction to demand the pricing information.

Health Canada, the federal regulator, gave the board the power to review international pricing information of patented drugs sold in Canada to protect consumers from excessive prices. If the board determines drugs are sold in Canada at higher prices than in other countries, it can order the manufacturer to lower the cost. The drugmaker also has the option of pulling the drug from the Canadian market.

The case is Celgene Corp. v. Attorney General of Canada, 33422, Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa).

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