MUSC files suit against drugmaker

By Ashley Barker 
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 2, 2014

The Medical University of South Carolina is suing a pharmaceutical company over the use of patents owned by one of its professors.

MUSC Foundation for Research Development and Charleston Medical Therapeutics Inc. filed a second complaint against AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals L.P., manufacturer of the drug Crestor, in December. The plaintiffs had filed an initial lawsuit in July.

The plaintiffs said in the most recent court filing that AstraZeneca “encourages, aids, instructs and causes the public, including doctors and other health care professionals, to use Crestor in a manner that infringes the claims of the ’219 patent.”

The ’219 patent, an abbreviation of U.S. Patent No. 8,507,219, is titled “Use of Statins to Inhibit Inflammation and Vascular Disease.” It is a continuation of and “virtually identical” to U.S. Patent No. 6,511,800, also known as ’800 patent, according to the filing.

The ’800 patent was issued in 2003 and ’219 in August 2013 to MUSC scientist Dr. Inderjit Singh by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The university professor was named sole inventor in both, the filing said.

Crestor belongs to a class of drugs called statins. It was tested in a clinical trial by AstraZeneca to determine if a patient with vascular inflammation could benefit from taking the drug to prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Crestor for the clinical trial on Feb. 8, 2010, the filing said.

On its website, the FDA said, “This is the first time Crestor has been approved for use in the prevention of heart disease in individuals with ‘normal’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and no clinically evident heart disease.”

The plaintiffs, represented by Austin, Texas-based McKool Smith and Mount Pleasant-based Motley Rice law firms, said AstraZeneca was notified that “expanding the use of statins to treat inflammatory diseases would require a license to the plaintiff’s patented technology.”

MUSC and Charleston Medical Therapeutics are looking for AstraZeneca to pay damages to compensate for “willful infringement,” prejudgment and post-judgment interest on the damages, and attorneys’ fees.

The filing said AstraZeneca spent approximately $1.1 billion on promotional activities related to Crestor in 2010 and 2011.

Motley Rice spokeswoman Laura Thompson referred questions to MUSC, and MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said the university is, “unable to comment, because this is an active litigation.”

AstraZeneca is being represented by international law firm Covington & Burling LLP and Columbia-based Nexsen Pruet. It’s also involved in other litigation in the state involving Palmetto Pharmaceuticals LLC.

“We intend to vigorously defend against these allegations,” said Alisha Martin, AstraZeneca spokeswoman.

Nexsen Pruet attorney Marguerite Willis referred questions to Covington & Burling.

Covington & Burling officials did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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