Trials & Litigation

Using Thalidomide to Treat Cancer Was My Idea, Ex-Skadden Lawyer Says in $300M Suit

A federal judge in New Jersey is giving a former lawyer for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom a chance to prove that it was her idea to use thalidomide as a cancer drug.

Chappaqua, N.Y., pharmaceutical lawyer Beth Jacobson claims in a $300 million lawsuit that she gave Celgene Corp. the thalidomide idea when she was trying to find a treatment for her husband’s multiple myeloma, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. She previously practiced at Skadden for 15 years. Her suit alleges misappropriation of her idea and unjust enrichment.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg denied Celgene’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and allowed discovery on whether the statute of limitations barred the lawsuit, the story says.

In 1995, Jacobson temporarily gave up legal practice to research a cure for her husband, according to the New Jersey Law Journal’s summary of the allegations. Jacobson interviewed cancer researcher Judah Folkman, who had studied whether thalidomide could be used to treat childhood leukemia. She approached Celgene, which held a license for therapeutic uses of thalidomide, and asked the company to supply the drug to her husband.

The drug company agreed. Jacobson’s husband died in 1998 but another patient lived after receiving the drug. Celgene has subsequently received approval to market the drug for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, reaping billions of dollars in revenue, the suit says.

Celegene maintains Jacobson’s suit is barred by the statute of limitations and there is no legal obligation to compensate her. One of the issues is whether the deadline for filing a suit was tolled while Jacobson negotiated with the company for a seat on its board of directors.

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