Chasing Roche's aging blockbuster franchise, Amgen/Allergan roll out Avastin, Herceptin knockoffs at discount
Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.
Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.
The partners are setting the WAC, or wholesale acquisition cost, of both drugs 15% lower than their reference products: $677.40 / 100 mg and $2,709.60 / 400 mg for Mvasi and $3,697.26 / 420 mg for Kanjinti. The WAC, of course, rarely ends up being the final price; rebates, discounts and assistance programs often cut a big slice off before money exchanges hands. Amgen and Allergan attempted to take that into account by looking at the average selling price (ASP); on that front Mvasi is still 12% cheaper than Avastin and Kanjinti 13% below Herceptin.
“We note that the launch of these products is slightly ahead of our 2020 assumption for both products,” Credit Suisse analyst Evan Seigerman wrote in a note. “Still despite some unknowns about the commercialization of these assets, we are encouraged with this progress and see >$500M across these two products alone in the US.”
Billions more are on the line. Another biosimilar for Rituxan, the final of Roche’s blockbuster cancer trio, is coming; Credit Suisse forecast more than $3 billion in total sales at peak, much of which will go to Amgen while Allergan — soon to be swallowed by AbbVie — collects royalties and milestones.
If they can convince physicians and payers to switch, that is. Notably, while Kanjinti is approved to treat every disease on Herceptin’s label, Mvasi is only approved for five of Avastin’s seven indications.
Aside from the discounts, Seigerman notes that the companies will likely adopt other strategies to compete with the brand-name products:
We note that Amgen appears to be offering patient assistance programs for these assets, essentially selling them more like a branded product vs. a traditional generic. We think that contracting/ access in addition to policy around J-codes (will different biosimilars to a specific product have one J-code or multiple) and interchangeability will also impact uptake curves.
It won’t be fast, commented Scott Gottlieb, who cheered on Mvasi’s approval during his tenure at the FDA.
The adoption by doctors of biosimilars for curative clinical settings (cancer) is likely to be a slower ramp than chronic conditions (psoriasis). This may not be rational, since biosimilars are just as safe and effective as brand counterparts. But we should expect this behavior.
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) July 19, 2019
Social image credit: Amgen