Biogen tips its biosimilars to save EU payers €1.8bn in 2019

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Danielsbfoto)
(Image: Getty/Danielsbfoto)

Related tags: Biogen, Samsung biologics, Samsung bioepis, Humira, Amgen, Johnson & johnson

Biogen has predicted that its three biosimilars will save European healthcare systems €1.8bn this year.

The forecast reflects rising demand for Biogen’s biosimilar copies of AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab), Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept) and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade (infliximab).

Combined sales of the biosimilars increased 37% year-on-year in the first quarter, bringing total revenues at Biogen’s nascent off-patent business up to $175m (€156m).

This figure could grow if Biogen’s Humira biosimilar, which came to market late last year, starts to win market share from the AbbVie product – sales of Humira outside the US totalled $6.3bn last year.

This opportunity is one driver of Biogen’s forecast savings for European payers, with The UK expecting to save £300m a year​ from Humira biosimilars, alone, by 2021. Scaled across three products and around 20 European countries, Biogen thinks it biosimilars portfolio will save €1.8bn in 2019.

The forecast is partly a reflection of Biogen’s aggressive pricing. Imraldi, Biogen’s version of Humira, came to market in Germany last year at a price 40% below that of the reference product, far exceeding the 18% to 21% discounts Amgen and Novartis initially set for their rival copycats.

There are signs such discount are helping Biogen to win market share.

In Germany, the largest anti-TNF market in Europe, we estimate that Humira biosimilars have already captured approximately 35% market share, with Imraldi capturing about 40% of that share​,” Biogen CFO Jeff Capello told investors on a quarterly results conference call in April.

The discounts offered in Germany reflect the level of competition among products seeking to win share from Humira and the evolution of the biosimilar market. When Biogen broughts its Enbrel copy, Benepali, to market in the UK in 2016, it offered a 10% discount on the reference product.

Benepali has gone on to become a significant product for Biogen, generating sales of $124m in the first quarter, from the shipment of more than one million doses. Biogen claims Benepali has a leadership position in countries including Germany and the UK.

Work is underway to ensure Imraldi claims a similar position in the Humira biosimilar market. Biogen shipped more than 200,000 doses of Imraldi across 18 countries in its first full quarter on the market, figures that the company calculates makes it the best selling Humira biosimilar.

Biosimilar studies

Biogen shared details of the forecast savings for European healthcare systems in a release to disclose its presentations at the European Congress of Rheumatology conference.

The presentations feature findings that could encourage uptake of biosimilars. One study found no evidence that moving patients from Enbrel to biosimilar copies causes clinically significant changes in disease scores. Another study found similar one-year retention among patients who stayed on Enbrel and their counterparts who switched to a biosimilar.

Through such findings, Biogen and its biosimilar rivals hope to allay worries about switching patients from reference products and, in doing so, enable off-patent products to claim a bigger piece of the biologics market.

For now, that opportunity is largely confined to Europe. Biogen thinks biosimilars could save the US around $250bn over the next 10 years but the lack of an effective market for copies of off-patent biologics mean it is unclear if these savings will be realized.

Biogen has a stake in the biosimilar industry through its joint venture with Samsung BioLogics, known as Samsung Bioepis, which Biogen decided to increase its position in last year​.

Related topics: Markets & Regulations, Biosimilars

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