This week, Pfizer accused reference product maker Johnson & Johnson of anticompetitive practices restricting the uptake of its version of Remicade (infliximab), Inflectra, in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“We are filing this suit to challenge practices that block access, choice and price competition for patients, so that patients have access to a wide range of treatment options at a competitive price,” Pfizer spokesman Thomas Biegi told Biopharma-Reporter.
The suit claims systematic efforts made by J&J to maintain its monopoly on infliximab include threatening to withhold rebates to insurers unless they agreed to “biosimilar-exclusion contracts,” effectively blocking coverage for Inflectra.
“Without such coverage, providers – who depend on reimbursement from insurers – are reluctant to stock biosimilars, even to service Medicare and Medicaid patients where there is widespread coverage for Inflectra,” Biegi said.
Pfizer also said J&J offered discounts on Remicade to providers dependent on them not purchasing infliximab biosimilars.
Thus, Pfizer argued, Inflectra’s lower price has not become a differentiator to its reference biologic. Currently Inflectra’s Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) is 19% lower than that of Remicade, and has an Average Selling Price (ASP) that is more than 10% lower.
“Behavior such as this is an injustice to patients, blocking their access to important lower cost biosimilar therapies.”
While Pfizer’s lawsuit could be beneficial for other infliximab biosimilars, such as Samsung Bioepis’ Renflexis launched in July, Beigi said there are no other parties to this lawsuit.
“Pfizer is committed to challenging practices like these that improperly block access, choice and price competition for patients – through the courts and by working with policymakers and regulators – so that patients have access to a wide range of treatment options at a competitive price,” Beigi said.
US uptake of Pfizer and Celltrion’s Remicade biosimilar has been slow. A year after launch Inflectra has only a 2% share of the infliximab market – a market which was worth $4.45bn to Johnson & Johnson in 2016.
Inflectra and Celltrion’s Remsima have been available in Europe for a number of years and have seen a fairly large uptake in a number of markets, effectively wiping-out sales of Remicade in some countries.
“Market place dynamics are different in Europe than in the US,” Biegi told us.
“Because pricing is much more closely regulated in Europe, J&J is unable to deploy such anticompetitive contracting strategies.”