Takeda Accused of Favoring Japanese Patients for Cancer Drug

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Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s internal files show the Japanese company sought to limit shortages of the cancer drug Lupron in its home market and knew the measures would lead to shortages for American patients, said a consultant for AbbVie Inc., which sold the medication in the U.S.

The files show Takeda officials juggled Lupron shipments starting in early 2020 in a way that provided “minimal disruption” to markets in Japan and China, sales consultant John Russell testified Wednesday at a trial before Delaware Chancery Court Judge Sam Glasscock III. Abbvie sued Takeda for failing to fulfill its 2008 Lupron supply agreement.

Production problems at a Takeda plant caused the shortages. Managers acknowledged in the files Takeda’s allocation plan would cause U.S. shortages of the prostate-and breast-cancer drug, but “they felt they could manage” the fallout, Russell said.

Last year, U.S. regulators warned Takeda about manufacturing problems uncovered at its plant in Hikari, Japan, that produces Lupron, as well as the Crohn’s disease drug Entyvio. Addressing repeatedly unsterile production processes triggered a Lupron shortage, the company acknowledged in earnings reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration still has Lupron on its drug-shortage list.

Takeda’s U.S. representatives didn’t immediately return an email for comment on Russell’s testimony. In court filings, they accused Abbvie of unfairly seeking to favor U.S. Lupron patients at the expense of other cancer sufferers around the world. They contend U.S. patients have access to the competing drug Eligard and allege Abbvie is seeking to hoard Lupron dosages.

Stephen Laegeler, an Abbvie manager overseeing Lupron sales, testified earlier that Takeda began shorting its U.S. partner in April 2020 as the Hikari production problems continued. In some months, Abbvie didn’t get half its requested Lupron dosages, he said.

“Lupron patients need their dosages on a reliable and timely fashion,” and Takeda repeatedly failed to meet those standards, Laegeler told the judge. “This is a life-saving and life-extending drug.”

The case is AbbVie Endocrine Inc. v. Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., No. 2020-0953, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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