European Commission made healthcare history with its first approval of a biosimilar antibody--Inflectra (infliximab)--which was developed by Korea's Celltrion and will be sold by generics powerhouse Hospira.
But the companies don't expect to file for US approval until 2015 as they wait for the FDA to finalize its regulatory pathway.
The approval gives Hospira a clear shot at Remicade's $ 2bn European market for rheumatoid arthritis, part of a $ 6bn global franchise for J&J that has become one of the top targets in the biosimilars business. While Hospira has been winning approvals for other biosimilars in Europe, this is the first time one of the far more complex antibody blockbusters has been successfully copied and approved.
Now the market can begin to assess how much of a savings these biosimilars represent for payers as the market assumes likely discounts ranging from 15% to 30%. Celltrion execs are already on record asserting that they're planning 30% discounts for biosimilars, but there is no official word yet on the price.
The approval of a TNF-( biosimilar product has been long expected but it is of importance to closely monitor the biosimilar consequences as several Benelux biotech/pharma companies are active in the autoimmune / rheuma arthritis field.
UCB: markets Cimzia which is one of the 5 branded TNF-( products. The company stated in the past that the € 1.5bn Cimzia peak sales estimate incorporates potential biosimilar impacts. We note that although the mode of action and the primary markets (rheumatoid arthritis) are similar between infliximab and Cimzia, Cimzia’s mode of administration and fast onset of action could prevent the drug from being heavily impacted by Inflectra.
Galapagos: develops a JAK1 rheuma pill (GLPG634) in partnership with AbbVie. AbbVie’s top product is Humira, the most successful TNF-( drug. While there is some competition in the JAK-pill space picking up, biosimilar pressure on AbbVie’s Humira (either via yesterday’s approved Inflectra or by expected Humira-biosimilars), could push AbbVie even harder in getting GLPG634 on the market.
Ablynx: obtained positive phase II results with its TNF-( product (ATN103) but after regaining the rights from Pfizer, development was stopped. The company stated that ATN103 could be developed as low-priced product, and hence the product could be good alternative for those interested in lower-priced TNF-( drugs. Ablynx is also developing an IL-6R biological for rheuma, though IL-6 biosimilars are not expected in the near term.
Tigenix: has tested its stem cell product in biologicals refractory rheuma patients andobserved trends of activity earlier this year. Pricing pressure in the traditional biologicals space could trigger interest for pharma players towards the refractory population.