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Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) Sued For Using Patented Method In Developing Cancer Drug ‘Keytruda’

Boston, MA 09/09/2014 (wallstreetpr) – Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (NYSE:BMY), along with its partner ONO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD., sued Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) for patent infringement.

The matter concerns Merck’s newly launched drug, ‘Keytruda,’ which is aimed at treating the deadly skin cancer melanoma. As the drug received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, immediate action was taken by  Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (NYSE:BMY) and Ono and the two approached the federal court in Delaware on the same day itself. They filed a lawsuit against Merck, claiming that its new drug violates a patent for a process of spurring the body’s immune system to combat cancer.

Competition In Emerging Market

As reported by the Wall Street journal in an article, the argument underlines the multicompany competition in the emerging market for cancer drugs targeting the immune response of the body. Some analysts believe that the annual sales in this market could surge up to as high as $30 billion in a short span of only about ten years. Immunotherapy drugs have showed promising results particularly in the treatment of melanoma, although significant outcome have also been achieved for other cancers as well.

Patent Infringement

The present dispute on ‘Keytruda,’ whose generic name is pembrolizumab, concerns the method by which the drug functions. It essentially blocks a part of programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1), specific cells of the immune system. The process allows the immune system to brake off, resulting in hence an enhanced ability to obliterate malignant cells. The side effects, in this treatment method, are also manageable, according to doctors.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (NYSE:BMY) and Ono have also been working on a drug, nivolumab, which works on the same principle of blocking PD-1. The companies are already selling the drug as melanoma therapy in Japan since last week, under brand name Opdivo. Bristol-Myers reported that it expected to file for FDA approval of the drug on Sept 30 and commence marketing the drug as a treatment for lung cancer. The company claims to have obtained exclusive rights toONO PHARMACEUTICAL CO., LTD.’s patents on the new method for treating cancer.

Published by Nicholas Maithya

Nicholas is a Financial Analyst by profession, who enjoys writing about investments, technological developments, business, economics and other financial topics at various financial publications. Join him here on as he endeavors to deliver to you the latest breaking news on the above mentioned fronts. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow Nicholas Kitonyi @nmaithyak on Twitter.

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