The perceived wisdom is that because biosimilars are cheaper they will either win market share from established products or they will force innovative firms to cut prices to try and stave off competition.
While this model is true in most cases, it does not fit all diseases according to GlobalData analyst Lakshmi Dharmarajan, who told BioPharma-Reporter.com growth hormone deficiency (GHD) is one area where low cost copycats have struggled.
“As evidenced by the case of Omnitrope, biosimilar manufacturers would have to invest beyond standard drug development in order to compete with the originators in the GHD market. They would have to develop patient assistance programs to improve affordability and access to the drug.”
Sandoz’s Omnitrope is the only approved biosimilar version of Pfizer’s Genotrope. According to Dharmarajan the copycat was slow to win market share until the Novartis unit launched services and technologies to differentiate it from the originator.
A Sandoz spokesman backed this view, telling us “Our learning from the Omnitrope launch was that we couldn’t rely on a price only approach.”
He added that Omnitrope sales started to increase when the firm adopted more of a “branded pharma” approach to ensure that patients continued to receive disease management support services.
“A key example of this approach was establishing a patient hub in the US. Sandoz also invested in improving the delivery device and launched its Surepal delivery device in EU in 2013."
Omnitrope sales continue to grow double-digit and its volume market share is in the mid-teens the spokesman added.
Dharmarajan suggested that other developers should keep Sandoz’s experience in mind.
“Providing other value-added features, such as multiple delivery devices, auto injector technologies and different formulations, would enable manufacturers to gain patient preference” he said, citing treatment compliance as the biggest issue in the GHD market.
“While existing GH replacement drugs are daily injectables, biobetters developed by companies such as Novo Nordisk, Pfizer and OPKO, Teva, Versartis and Ascendis Pharma require once-weekly or bi-weekly administration.”
She added that: “On the other hand, biosimilar GHD drugs, being copy-cat versions of the originators, would offer no such clinical advantage over the current standard-of-care treatment.”