The move towards biologics is demonstrated by six of last year’s top ten global drug products being biologics - Humira, Lantus, Enbrel, Remicade, Mabthera, Avastin - Alan Sheppard, principal of global generics and biosimilars at IMS Health, said today.
“But these products are servicing a much smaller percentage of the population [than conventional blockbusters], so what we’re doing is spending a lot more money to treat fewer patients,” he told delegates at the CPhI Worldwide Finished Dosage Formulation (FDF) event in London, UK.
“This is absolutely the converse of the generics situation where we are spending a lot less money to treat a lot more patients, so balancing this demand for increased expenditure on specialty biologic medicines is going to be important in the future.”
Therefore biosimilars will have an important role, he continued, and payers will increasingly move to these copycat medicines to help reduce costs.
While biosimilars have only recently made a mark in the US – Sandoz’s Zarxio launched last September was the first – they have been available in Europe for almost a decade.
“In Europe, the biosimilar story changes every month, but one thing is sure that if you have a tender system as in the Nordics States you get very high penetration rate,” Sheppard said, with copycat biologics taking up to 90% of the market share in some countries.
For example, Orion Pharma’s Remsima (made by Celltrion) was launched in Norway in 2014 at a 39% discount to its reference biologic, J&J’s Remicade (infliximab), but a tender a year later brought the discount up to nearly 70%.
This, according to a medical director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, is likely to cause “an almost total wipe-out of the originator drug” in the region this year.
But in Europe’s five largest markets – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – there is no tender system and the growth of adoption has been incremental, yet relatively slow, Sheppard said.
“If the healthcare system is in a position to influence the use of biosimilars, then biosimilars are taking a far greater percentage of the market than anybody really anticipated when biosimilars came to the market 10 years ago.”