Remicade sales down as J&J feels impact of EU biosimilar competition

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Remicade biosimilars were launched across a number of major EU countries in February 2015
Remicade biosimilars were launched across a number of major EU countries in February 2015

Related tags: Rheumatoid arthritis

Sales of Jonson & Johnson’s Remicade have been hit by biosimilar competition but the firm remains confident it will maintain leadership in the immunology space.

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.

US threat

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.”

Related topics: Markets & Regulations, Biosimilars

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