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Actelion's Update on Asahi Litigation

Zacks Equity Research

Actelion Ltd. (ALIOF) possesses a leading franchise in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) with four products for this indication, namely, Tracleer, Ventavis, Veletri and Opsumit.

Opsumit was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Oct 18, 2013 and the drug was launched in Nov 2013. Health Canada, EU and Australia also approved this drug in Nov 2013, Dec 2013 and Feb 2014, respectively.

Recently, to Actelion’s dismay, the Supreme Court of California denied the company’s petition for review of the Court of Appeal's decision affirming the final judgment entered against Actelion in Nov 2011 in the case of Asahi vs. Actelion. Actelion believes that there are significant reasons for the Supreme Court to review this case.

We note that Actelion had acquired CoTherix in 2007. CoTherix and Asahi Kasei Pharma had a license agreement to develop fasudil, which was terminated following Actelion’s acquisition of CoTherix. Asahi sued Actelion and CoTherix in Nov 2008.

In May 2011, a Californian court jury awarded up to $547 million as compensatory damages to Asahi Kasei Pharma and punitive damages of $30 million against certain officials of Actelion. Actelion had then filed a motion which could have significantly reduced the compensatory damages.

Actelion filed a series of post-trial motions which were granted in part. The final amended verdict came to approximately $407.3 million in compensatory damages, which include a total of $30 million in punitive damages against three officers of the company.

To the company’s disappointment, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the amended final judgment. Actelion continued to believe that the decision of the Court of Appeal was not supported by facts and was incorrect from the point of view of law. Thus, Actelion filed a petition in the Supreme Court of California, requesting that the Court review the Court of Appeal’s decision.

Actelion carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Investors looking for better-ranked stocks in the biopharma sector may consider companies like Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), Shire (SHPG) and Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc. (QCOR), all of which carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). 

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