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AbbVie says Botox rival Revance recruited its employees in bid to steal trade secrets

The battle between the makers of face-filling beauty products is getting ugly. Now, AbbVie is throwing a new wrinkle into the mix.

The pharma giant is accusing Revance of recruiting key employees as part of a strategy to get its hands on proprietary information. Revance is launching cosmetic treatment Daxxify to challenge AbbVie’s blockbuster Botox.

In a lawsuit filed in Nashville, Tennessee, AbbVie characterized Revance’s tactics to compete as “desperate” and said that the company has “taken shortcuts by misappropriating trade secrets.”

Revance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September of last year, Revance won a long-awaited FDA approval of Daxxify, which has been shown in a clinical trial to sustain its effects twice as long as Botox with one injection.

AbbVie’s product, which was acquired when it bought out Allergan in 2019 for $63 million, has been virtually unchallenged since it hit the market in 1989. In 2022, Botox racked up sales of $2.6 billion for its cosmetic applications and $2.7 billion for its therapeutic uses.

In January, Revance said it was preparing for a full commercial launch of Daxxify around the end of the first quarter of 2023. The company presents its first-quarter report Tuesday of next week.

This is not the first go-round in court for the companies. In 2021, AbbVie sued Revance, claiming patent infringement. That move prompted the Nashville company to file a countersuit. The litigation in those cases is ongoing.

Like Botox, Daxxify is an injected neuromodulator. But Revance’s product is the first based on peptide exchange technology. Its approval was for the removal of moderate to severe glabellar (frown) lines.

Revance also is investigating Daxxify for its therapeutic benefits. In January, the FDA accepted the company’s submission for a potential approval in cervical dystonia. Revance also has completed a phase 2 study in upper lip spasticity.

In its recent complaint, AbbVie argues its subsidiary Allergan “pioneered the harnessing of BoNT (botulinum toxin), one of the world’s most dangerous substances,” in gaining approvals for Botox.

“All of that work has resulted in highly valuable and closely guarded Botox trade secrets,” AbbVie claims.

AbbVie also points to a letter from Revance in 2019 in which the company said it instructs new employees to “refrain from unauthorized disclosure or use of proprietary information belonging to former employers.”

AbbVie is seeking a jury trial in its efforts to “recover and protect” its proprietary information and collect damages.