Merck said a jury ordered Gilead Sciences to pay $2.54 billion in damages for infringing a patent of Merck subsidiary Idenix Pharmaceuticals for methods Gilead used to develop medicines for hepatitis C including Sovaldi and Harvoni.
Gilead said it disagreed with the verdict in the US District Court for the District of Delaware and would appeal it.
Merck said the patent at issue facilitated significant advances in the treatment of patients with hepatitis C virus infection and was appropriately granted.
“Achieving these advancements required many years of research and significant investment by our subsidiary and its partners,” added Merck.
“The jury awarded the damages as compensation for infringement through August 2016.
“In its decision, the jury also concluded that Gilead ‘willfully’ infringed upon the patent.
“As a result, Judge Leonard P. Stark, may, at his discretion, increase the damages award up to a multiple of three times.”
Bloomberg News said the $2.54 billion was the biggest patent-infringement verdict in US history, adding that the previous top verdict was a $1.67 billion judgment Johnson & Johnson won against Abbot Laboratories, which was later thrown out on appeal.
Harvoni and Sovaldi have attracted much attention for their success in curing hepatitis C in more than 90% of patients and for their high cost, Reuters reported.
Harvoni’s list price is $1,125 per pill and $94,500 for a 12-week regimen and Gilead made nearly $20 billion on the two drugs in 2015, according to Reuters.
Gilead told Bloomberg News: “We remain steadfast in our opinion that Idenix’s US patent is invalid, and since they made no contribution and assumed none of the risk in the discovery and development of sofosbuvir and its metabolites, do not believe they are entitled to any level of damages.”