Mylan Accused by Sanofi of Trying to `Squelch' EpiPen Rival

(Bloomberg) -- Mylan NV engaged in a campaign to squash a rival to its EpiPen allergy treatment and artificially inflate the price of the drug to maintain a market monopoly, French drugmaker Sanofi said in a lawsuit filed Monday.

Mylan, which once controlled more than 90 percent of the market for epinephrine allergy injectors, is already under scrutiny over the skyrocketing prices of its EpiPen product. The company is facing a U.S. antitrust probe of whether it improperly thwarted competition to the blockbuster product. Sanofi claims in its lawsuit that Mylan’s conduct is harming consumers.

“To preserve the monopoly position of their $1 billion crown jewel branded drug product, Mylan engaged in illegal conduct to squelch this nascent competition, harming both Sanofi and U.S. consumers,” Sanofi’s lawyers said in the complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey.

Mylan executives offered ‘unprecedented’ price rebates to persuade government officials, insurance companies and pharmaceutical benefit managers not to reimburse patients for Sanofi’s competing Auvi-Q allergy treatment. Mylan also allegedly ran misleading ads to convince doctors to avoid prescribing Auvi-Q and required schools to certify they would use EpiPen exclusively in order to access discounts, Sanofi said.

Nina Devlin, a spokeswoman for Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Mylan, didn’t immediately return a call for comment about the Sanofi suit.

Blockbuster Drug

The EpiPen is a self-administered injection of epinephrine, a drug that’s used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions from bee stings, food allergies or other triggers. The drug accounts for about 40 percent of Mylan’s operating profits.

Mylan now controls about 70 percent of the market for emergency allergy treatments, according to data compiled by Bloomberg in the first quarter of this year. Impax Laboratories Inc.’s lower-cost generic version, Adrenaclick, accounts for about 18 percent of the market, followed by Auvi-Q with about 12 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg for the same period.

Sanofi introduced Auvi-Q,  which was created by twin brothers who grew up with severe allergies, in 2013 as a more patient-friendly version of EpiPen. The device, which was about the height and width of a credit card, gave audio and visual cues to help patients and caregivers with the injection.

Sanofi stopped selling Auvi-Q in October 2015 after questions were raised about the device’s ability to correctly deliver safe doses of epinephrine. Sanofi ended its partnership with Kaleo Inc. and gave the rights to the device back to the closely held company based in Richmond, Virginia.

Auvi-Q Comeback

Sanofi’s suit covers the two-year period starting in 2013 when the French company competed with Mylan’s EpiPen in the US, according to court filings. Kaleo officials brought Auvi-Q back on the market in February.

Mylan acknowledged in January it received a request for information from the Federal Trade Commission focused on whether it sought to block rival products from cutting into is market share.

Sanofi contends in its suit that Mylan executives required schools that stock emergency allergy treatments to vow not to use lower-cost EpiPen competitors. Those school sales prompted the New York Attorney General’s office to launch a probe last year into whether Mylan added anticompetitive terms to sales contracts with such institutions. 

Mylan officials have said that the company’s EpiPen4Schools program doesn’t have any purchase requirements for participation.

The case is Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC v. Mylan Inc., 17-cv-2763, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.