The legal battle over Relenza between Glaxo and Australia's Biota took an embarassing turn this week, when a redacted portion of documents Glaxo filed in its defense suddenly became public. And those redacted portions were in documents given journalists, which Glaxo indicated was due to court orders, but the court says that wasn't the case, according toBiotechnologyNews.net.
For those who haven't followed this mess, Biota is suing Glaxo for failing to promote its Relenza flu device and being deceptive about its plans to withdraw support. In its defense, Glaxo claims Biota knew perfectly well there were issues with the product and and was fully aware of its decision not to promote the med.
The redacted segment, however, includes an e-mail from Glaxo ceo JP Garnier to the Biota ceo in which he appears to be contradicting an strategy not to promote Relenza, according to BiotechnologyNews. In it, he appears to reassure the Biota ceo that Glaxo is committed to Relenza, and that comments quoted in the Australian media about his description of Relenza as a "niche" (and therefore, insignificant) product, had been taken out of context. The email from Garnier reads:
"I would not agree more with your comments; the characterization of my remarks is clearly off the mark in the Australian press. GlaxoSmithKline is committed to maximize the value of Relenza and to explore opportunities around brand (including prevention, etcâ€¦"However, we needed to put the negative results of Relenza's first quarter in proper context and if you wished to quote me accordingly, please do so."
According to Biota, this email was sent on April 27, 2001 â€“ the day after GSK said that Niall "â€¦believed that the Glaxo Group had been disappointed with sales of Relenza and that its CEO, Dr Jean-Pierre Garnier, held the view that Relenza was not doing well in the market placeâ€¦"
One of the central planks of Biota's claim against Glaxo is that the company formed a secret strategy to withdraw support for Relenza, and concealed this from the Australian biotech company. Biota's claim against Glaxo said: "Until the compulsory production of documents and discovery by the defendants in this proceeding, Glaxo had concealed the existence of the Global Exit Strategy from BSM and Biota."
In another section that was blacked out of the copy of the Glaxo document given to journalists, the drugmaker said:
"â€¦by 24 May 2000, the directors of Biota believed that the Glaxo Group might reduce the extent of the DTC advertising in the following northern hemisphere season â€¦ by 6 October 2000, Dr Hugh Niall, the CEO of Biota, believed that the Glaxo Group would not be doing much DTC advertising in the USA in the forthcoming winter â€¦ by 22 February 2001, Dr Niall knew of the decision by GWA to withdraw a dedicated sales force for Relenza in 2001â€¦"
"â€¦(a) by 26 April 2001, Dr Niall believed that the Glaxo Group had been disappointed with sales of Relenza and that its CEO, Dr Jean-Pierre Garnier, held the view that Relenza was not doing well in the market place â€¦ (b) Relenza was no longer a priority product for the Glaxo Group, although it would continue to support Relenza â€¦ (c) the Glaxo Group regarded Relenza as a niche productâ€¦"
Glaxo said the section was redacted "in view of GSK's obligations under the confidentiality orders made by the court in this litigation". Despite this, a spokesperson for the Victorian Supreme Court told BTN that the section had not been removed at the order of the court, and there was no reason that the section should not be published.