10:21 EDT Wednesday
July 10, 2001
Swiss drugmaker Serono SA goes to court today to fight claims by Cambridge-based Biogen Inc. that Europe's biggest biotechnology company made misleading statements about its multiple sclerosis drug Rebif.
Serono attorneys will appear at a closed hearing in Geneva to refute Biogen allegations that resulted in a preliminary injunction last month against Serono. The court, which issued the injunction without hearing from Serono, said the Geneva-based company could not make certain statements.
"Serono will defend its position vigorously," company spokesman Marc Aubert told Bloomberg Business News.
Biogen is trying to protect sales of its MS medicine, known as Avonex. Serono's Rebif has already become the top-selling treatment outside the United States, yet it has not yet penetrated the American market because of exclusive marketing rights held by Biogen until mid-2003.
To break Biogen's hold on the $1.1 billion U.S. market, Serono has to prove to U.S. regulators that Rebif is a safer or more effective option. As a result, it undertook a study comparing the two medicines, which it said shows Rebif works better.
On June 22, the day Serono presented the study to a London medical conference, Biogen obtained an injunction from the Geneva court saying that Serono could not claim that patients taking Rebif have a 90 percent greater chance of remaining relapse-free than patients given Avonex. Serono nevertheless repeated the claims.
Copyright 2001 American City Business