The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made explicit what has long been considered implicit based on Warner-Lambert and its progeny, namely, that plaintiffs asserting an induced infringement theory to bar the entry of generic drugs in a Hatch-Waxman suit are subject to higher scrutiny than plaintiffs asserting the same theories outside of the Hatch-Waxman context. H. Lundbeck A/S v. Lupin Ltd., Case No. 22-1194 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 7, 2023) (Dyk, Prost, Hughes, JJ.)
Lundbeck owns the approved new drug application (NDA) for Trintellix®, a drug indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), as well as an expired compound patent for the associated active ingredient vortioxetine. Lundbeck also owns a patent that claims the use of vortioxetine as an antidepressant that can be prescribed in place of a traditional antidepressant to alleviate a patient’s negative sexual side effects, and another patent that claims the use of vortioxetine to treat cognitive impairment symptoms in patients with MDD.
Generic pharmaceutical companies filed abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) seeking approval to market generic versions of Trintellix® and asserting that Lundbeck’s unexpired patents listed in its NDA were invalid and would not be infringed by the generic companies. As required by the Hatch-Waxman Act (to prevent the entry of a generic on the market), Lundbeck sued the generic companies. At the district court, the defendants prevailed on the finding of noninfringement but lost on invalidity. Lundbeck appealed.
Lundbeck pressed its induced infringement and contributory infringement theories on appeal. Lundbeck argued that the generics infringed under the plain text of Hatch-Waxman (35 USC 271(e)(2)(A)) because they filed ANDAs seeking approval to market vortioxetine, and that “some uses of vortioxetine—for the treatment of patients that have previously taken other drugs but had to cease or reduce use due to sexually related adverse events and for the treatment of cognitive impairment—are covered by [Lundbeck’s listed] patents; and the labels do not prohibit prescribing vortioxetine for those uses, even though the defendants do not propose to market the drug for those patented uses.” In other words, Lundbeck argued that in terms of its inducement allegation, it made no difference whether a drug would be sold for a use not covered by Lundberg’s NDA-listed patents because the drug could be prescribed for those patented uses.
The Federal Circuit disagreed, explaining that “‘the use’ in § 271(e)(2)(A) refers to the use for which the FDA has granted an NDA” and for which the ANDA was submitted.” The Court emphasized that it is not “an act of infringement under . . . § 271(e)(2)(A) to submit an ANDA for a drug if just any use of that drug were claimed in a patent.” If it were, a brand could “maintain its exclusivity merely by regularly filing a new patent application claiming a narrow method of use not covered by its NDA,” which “would confer substantial additional rights on pioneer drug patent owners that Congress quite clearly did not intend to confer.” As the Court then held, “actions for [...]