Vivian Sim is an IP Intensive student and a 3L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.
I was largely oblivious to the processes of prescription and generic substitution before my internship at Teva Pharmaceuticals. Little did I know that pharmacists had the discretion of substituting generics for brand name medicines, unless the prescriber had indicated ‘no substitution’ on the prescription, which might occur if a patient had experienced an adverse reaction to an alternative brand. Little did I know that the price of patented medicines is capped on a case-by-case basis by the federal Patented Medicine Prices Review Board. And little did I know that every provincial/territorial jurisdiction in Canada is party to a Tiered Pricing Framework that also places ceilings on generic drug prices relative to the reference brand price. I was fortunate to have a patient and knowledgeable supervisor in Ben Gray with whom to discuss a number of patent issues involving litigation strategy, biologics, skinny labeling, and means by which pharmaceutical companies seek to extend their commercial monopolies.
My internship at Teva afforded me the opportunity to connect with members of the inhouse legal team, including counsel and a law clerk, as well as external counsel to gain a clearer picture of the division of labour on legal matters. In-house counsel oversaw matters on the macro level, sometimes handling matters independently, but also procuring and providing instruction to external counsel and allocating resources across files. External counsel were assigned to individual files, but in-house counsel kept abreast of developments through regular updates to their litigation reports, which provide an overview of ongoing litigation from claims to timelines. The management of intellectual property, having its own dedicated counsel and litigation report separate from all other legal matters, is unsurprisingly a priority for Teva.
While I did encounter a trademark issue pertaining to licensing the use of Teva’s brand materials, the IP matters I was exposed to mostly concerned patents. Though I have completed a handful of undergraduate courses in chemistry, that information has since laid dormant in my brain—so it was to my relief when Ben assured me that a PhD in chemistry is not a prerequisite to the in-house work that he does. I don’t know that the same can be said for the work of external counsel having now reviewed a couple lengthy Notices of Application pursuant to the PM(NOC) Regulations. Admittedly, I took numerous detours while reading to refresh my memory on the meaning of various terms describing chemical groups and molecular structure.
As Teva markets both brand name and generic products, it also both defends and challenges the validity of patents. I found it valuable to be placed with an entity whose interests lie on both sides of the social bargain in patent law. Updating litigation reports on intellectual property and non-intellectual property matters with law clerk Lynn Chacra allowed me to survey a range of legal issues that can arise for a pharmaceutical company. The matters I engaged with in more depth, though, were IP-related. In the
course of my work, I became more familiar with the Patent Act, the Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) Regulations, and the Rules of Civil Procedure. But my takeaways were not limited to hard skills.
Future dealings with most corporate adversaries, co-plaintiffs and co-defendants is to be expected in an oligopolistic industry like pharmaceuticals. As I allude to in the title of this blog—it’s a small world in big pharma. Aside from a firm grasp of the relevant substantive law and procedural frameworks, the importance of soft skills cannot be overstated in building respectful working relationships with adversaries and colleagues alike. For instance, favourable procedural arrangements and even settlements can sometimes be reached on consent of the parties. Co-plaintiffs or co-defendants may also pursue joint litigation to pool resources. It was my pleasure to be placed with an office that exemplifies professionalism from the technical to the relational. Owing to my positive experience with the Teva team, I have arranged to virtually observe an appeal hearing after the formal conclusion of my internship, so I can say with complete sincerity that I would choose this internship again.