COMPANY NEWS Viagra Drop The Biotechnological War between Amgen and J&J
he multi-billion dollar anemia drug — erythropoietin, or EPO, is the
T reason for the ensuing feud between two leading drug companies —
Amgen Inc. and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Both companies insist on their
right to market this highly successful biotechnology drug. W this year, the demand for the drug
In 1985, Amgen was still a biotechnology upstart, requiring support from
J&J. A contract was signed between the two companies whereby Amgen
was to manufacture EPO and only have the right to market it in the US
to patients undergoing kidney-dialysis treatment. J&J on the other hand,
reserves all other rights to the drug. Until today, the disputes have remained
unresolved as the products from the two companies are interchangeable.
situation is not quite the same now.
This in turn has led to difficulties in drug tracking (i.e. which company’s
drug is going to which patients) and revenue allocation. Also, there is an
obvious imbalance in the share of the market. Amgen’s dialysis business
is extremely limited while J&J’s demand for cancer drugs is fast-growing.
Recently, Amgen has developed a novel erythropoiesis stimulating protein,
or NESP, the successor to EPO. Like EPO, NESP boosts red blood cells,
but it does not need to be taken as often. However, the question remains.
Is NESP a new drug, or simply an improved version of EPO? The answer
defines the future of Amgen. If NESP is new, Amgen will thus have the
chance to be free of its association with J&J, and effectively compete in
is the cost of the drug. In recent months,
an international arena with big players like Rodre Holding AG (which
markets an EPO drug with a different heritage outside the U.S.), and Kirin
Brewery (which sells Amgen’s EPO in Japan). If NESP is merely an
improved version of EPO, J&J will be able to sell it too. As EPO sales
contribute to 5% of the entire company’s revenue, losing this battle may
earlier that Viagra sales will drop after
prove catastrophic for J&J. The entire proceeding is taking place behind
the initial take-off, many were surprised
closed doors. A binding decision is expected to be issued before the end
no further slowdown in sales is expected.
Amgen scientists claim that NESP is “biologically distinct” from
recombinant EPO, and that it behaves very differently from the original
product. Moreover, NESP will be patented separately, thus establishing it
approved in Europe. Also, despite the fact
as a distinct product. But on the other hand, it can be argued upon that
NESP was created by a slight modification of the original EPO molecule,
and should not be regarded as a separate product.
Biotech attorneys and securities analysts are unwilling to predict the final
consumption, many doctors feel that it is
outcome of the NESP case. Neither Amgen nor J&J has provided hints of
its legal strategy. The arbitrators could settle this feud once and for all by
awarding Amgen an increased share of NESP profits. The litigation could
were either elderly, or had other medical
be one way to get J&J to negotiate a higher royalty.
or nitrates despite package warnings.
APBN • Vol. 2 • Nos. 25 & 26 • 1998
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