In its second quarter 2015 earnings, J&J reported global pharmaceutical sales of $7.9bn (€7.2bn), a 7.6% decrease compared to the same period last year.
While a large drop in sales of its hepatitis C drug Olysio played a large part, management also acknowledged the decrease in sales of its monoclonal antibody Remicade (infliximab) which came off patent in a number of major European countries earlier this year.
Sales outside the US were $339m, down 20% year-on-year, but J&J’s Vice President of Investor Relations, Louise Mehrotra, said these were as expected during a conference call yesterday: “For the countries that went off patent in February 2015, we are seeing about market share for the biosimilars in the mid-single digits, so as expected.”
The biosimilar Inflectra was launched in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden by Hospira - a year after the product became available in Central and Eastern European countries – and is being picked up by some hospital groups in favour of the Janssen reference drug.
The Remicade copycat Remsima made by Korean firm Celltrion is currently in the review process in the US and could, if successful, make a dent in J&J’s US sales of the mAb which grew this quarter to $1.1bn.
But J&J CEO Alex Gorsky remained confident that, unlike generics, biosimilar competition would not erode sales, telling investors he expects his firm to win an ongoing patent-expiration battle and for Remicade to hold its own against such competition:
“More than 2.2 million people have been treated with Remicade and about 70% of the current patients are receiving sustained and effective treatment so we believe their doctors are very unlikely to switch them off with that level of success,” he said yesterday.
“And we also have a patent for the Remicade antibody that doesn’t expire until September 2018 that you can be sure we will continue to vigorously defend.”
On top of this, he said J&J is increasing its R&D in the autoimmune space to maintain its leadership position:
“We know competition in the immunology space is fierce and to ensure we maintain the leadership position, we built an established portfolio of $1 billion plus medicines that include Stelara [Ustekinumab] and Simponi [golimumab] and have potential $1 billion plus products in our late stage development like sirukumab for rheumatoid arthritis and guselkumab for psoriasis that we expect to introduce in the near-term.”