Drug Development

Novartis takes aim a slate of blockbusters with cheaper biosimilars

Novartis stepped in as one of the early pioneers in developing new biosimilars. And now the Swiss pharma giant has outlined its game plan to run the table with 5 new launches that will take aim at a slate of biologics that currently account for more than $44 billion in sales.

The generics arm of the company, Sandoz, has filings in mind for copycat versions of Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab), Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), Remicade (infliximab) and Rituxan (rituximab). Altogether Novartis is on track to complete 11 filings – with 5 more to come – running from last year through 2017.

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez

Just days ago, Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez rattled the biosimilar business with a projection that discounts on this first generation of generics will eventually tot up to 75% compared to the branded therapies. If so, that will go a long way to making biosimilars the kind of cheaper alternatives that have eviscerated small molecule brands that lost patent protection in the last decade.

In part, those discounts will be driven by competition by Novartis’s rivals. Novartis, Celltrion and others have been lining up new biosimilar approvals in Europe for the last decade, but only recently began to rack up OKs in the critical U.S. market, where drug pricing has become a potent political issue in this election year.

“Despite the impressive medical advances of the past century, access to medicines remains the single largest unmet healthcare need in developed and developing countries alike,” said Sandoz chief Richard Francis in a statement. “Biologics have revolutionized treatment of many disabling and life-threatening diseases but far too many people who need these medicines are not able to access them. At Sandoz, we are committed to significantly broadening patient access to biologics with a series of major biosimilar launches over the next few years.”

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