Novartis sees biosimilars growth as a driving force in Q2 results

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Influenza vaccine Growth hormone Novartis

 The strong showing by subsidiary Sandoz was driven by double-digit biosimilars sales growth in Asia.
The strong showing by subsidiary Sandoz was driven by double-digit biosimilars sales growth in Asia.
With almost three decades of recombinant protein production experience, Novartis is now seeing its work paying off as its biosimilars grew by 23% over the same quarter last year to $420m (€310.5m) in Q2.

The biosimilar performance by subsidiary Sandoz was driven by double-digit biosimilars sales growth in Asia, excluding Japan.

Although spokeswoman Julie Masow refused to comment on manufacturing capacity or how Novartis and Sandoz aim to keep up with demand, she noted that biosimilars Omnitrope (somatropin), Zarzio (filgrastim) and Binocrit (epoetin alfa) are all manufactured at in-house facilities in Europe.

In terms of the break down, Omnitrope ​ is “the fastest growing human growth hormone brand globally with over 15% market share both in the US and EU​,” Masow said. Zarzio also has 30% market share in Europe and is the first biosimilar to surpass its reference product -- Amgen’s Neupogen.

Binocrit continues to see double-digit growth and “in 2013 outpaced two key competitor brands – from Teva and Hospira,” Masow added.

Sandoz biosimilars control over 50% of the biosimilars market and are sold in over 60 countries “without any unexpected adverse events​,” Masow told us.

She added that Sandoz also has six potential biosimilars in Phase III trials that are versions of Roche’s Rituxan/MabThera; Amgen’s Neupogen, Neulasta and Enbrel; J&J’s Eprex/Procrit; and AbbVie’s Humira.

Vaccine Decline

Outside of its success in biosimilars, Novartis is seeing its vaccines business slowly decline as the company begins to transition this business to GlaxoSmithKline​ for about $7bn, excluding its flu vaccines.

Comparing results for the first half of 2014 and the same period in 2013, including the blood transfusion diagnostics unit, vaccines net sales declined 38%.

The decline is being primarily driven by the phasing of bulk pediatric shipments.

As far as flu vaccines are concerned, the company seems on track, with its cell-culture flu vaccine production plant in Holly Springs, NC​ approved by the FDA in late June.

In addition to the Holly Springs site, the company is in the process of restructuring or divesting 24 of its production sites.  Core operating loss was $355m in the first half year compared to a loss of $264m in the prior-year period, mainly due to increased operating costs at the newly licensed Holly Springs facility.

Google Lens Technology

And in an interesting and potentially innovative development, Novartis’ eye care division Alcon has entered into an agreement with a division of Google to in-license its "smart lens" technology.

The technology will be aimed at helping diabetic patients via a continuous, minimally invasive measurement of the body’s glucose levels through the “smart contact lens​” which is designed to measure tear fluid in the eye and connects wirelessly with a mobile device. The lens may also help people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses.

Masow told us Google will deliver the “smart lens​” technology while Alcon will manufacture and deliver the contact lenses and intraocular lenses. 

When the research and development phase is completed, Alcon will be responsible for manufacturing the final commercial product, including the ‘smart lens’ technology. We are currently in the early stages of developing the ‘smart lens’ technology for use in eye care and cannot speculate on timing for commercialization​,” she said.

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