sanofi-diagnosiaSanofi, one of the top global Pharma players, has sued a small European startup due to alleged injurious falsehood. The Startup, Diagnosia, has developed an Evidence-based Drug Decision Support software in coalition with a Finnish company cooperating with the renowned Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

At the core of the lawsuit is a letter from the Managing Director of Sanofi’s legal entity in Austria, Sabine Radl, which urged the company to remove a large portion of a series of side effects and drug interactions associated with their drug Novalgin® immediately.

Metamizole, the substance behind Novalgin®, is not available in the US, due to various reports of a life threatening Agranulocytosis. In other countries, such as Germany or Austria, the drug is being marketed heavily as an alternative to classical NSAIDs. According to the startup’s documents, Sanofi claims that Metamziole is per definition no NSAID, although multiple sources classified it as such (Stockley’s Drug Interaction, Micromedex, European Medicines Agency). Apart from that, there is evidence that Metamizole acts through peripheral COX-Inhibiton – an essential pathway for the mechanism of action of NSAIDs. Data coming from the Startup’s Finnish partners states that through a similar biochemical pathway there may also be comparable side effects and a similar interaction profile. A claim that Sanofi categorically denies, although in vitro and in vivo evidence exists.

Since the David vs. Goliath nature of this conflict, Diagnosia is ramping up it’s Social Media presence and turning towards to crowd to create awareness. Diagnosia’s co-founder and CEO, Marco Vitula, says that “if they had contacted us to discuss for a scientific discussion on which data shall be removed or not, we’d be grateful to do so. This happens all the time. Knowledge is being questioned and generated over time. The mere purpose of science. But simply claiming to have important side effects or drug interactions being removed from an Evidence-based drug database is simply a questionable strategy for a global Pharma corporation”.

David, in this case Diagnosia, is now relying on the Austrian courts and social media to show that we live in times, where evidence and public awareness are more potent than letters from lawyers.

And Pharma can surely learn from this.

Disclosure: One of the founders of MedCrunch is also founder of Diagnosia