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Two pharma giants are suing each other over their migraine drug

This is an illustration of a large yellow and pink pill on a blue background with abstract rectangles floating around.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amgen and Novartis jointly developed and sold the first FDA-approved drug to prevent migraines, which hit the market last year. But now their alliance is crumbling and they're suing each other.

The big picture: Everyone is so mad. These pharma giants are throwing every legal punch possible because there is so much money at stake.

  • Because Aimovig was the first in this class of migraine drugs to get FDA approval, it got the upper hand and controls 53% of the market.
  • U.S. sales of Aimovig were $119 million in 2018, but Wall Street analysts think sales could hit almost $2 billion by 2025.

The intrigue: Everything revolves around the contracts that Amgen and Novartis signed, which outlined how they would collaborate on research and marketing for Aimovig.

  • Amgen terminated the contracts on April 2, alleging a subsidiary of Novartis violated the terms by helping another company, Alder BioPharmaceuticals, make a competing migraine drug. Novartis admitted this after the fact, yet said it would still help Alder for another 5 years, according to Amgen's lawsuit.
  • Novartis denies the claims, arguing it didn't significantly breach their agreements because Alder's pending product isn't a true competitor. Instead, Novartis asserted Amgen is inappropriately ending the partnership "to keep the Aimovig profits for itself" and before Novartis "has come close to earning a return on its investment."

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