US sales of Rituxan (rituximab), also known as MabThera, increased 4% to CHF3.4bn (€3.1bn) over the first nine months of 2019. The continued growth in the US partly offset declines in Europe and Japan, where the arrival of biosimilar competitors drove sales down 33% and 46%, respectively.
Now, Roche faces the prospect of biosimilars eating away at US sales of Rituxan. On November 11, Teva and Celltrion launched the first biosimilar copy of Rituxan in the US.
Teva priced the 100 milligram vial of the the biosimilar, called Truxima, at $845.55, which represents around a 10% discount to Rituxan. In practice, Teva “will likely sell it for something less than that,” Brendan O’Grady, EVP, North America Commercial at Teva, said on a conference call with investors.
The history of off-patent product launches suggests discounts will get deeper once more companies enter the market. Pfizer won US Food and Drug Administration for a Rituxan biosimilar, Ruxience, in July.
Teva is shying away from making predictions about how the market will play out.
O’Grady said, “I think it still remains to be determined how pricing shakes out, and what the uptake is on share. But we are fairly optimistic that we have the right mix to take advantage of it.”
Teva’s optimism rests on the belief that its experience with small molecule generics and oncology drugs puts it in a good position to win market share and grow sales of Truxima.
O’Grady expects to see “fairly good” early uptake of Truxima that “may be better than what we have seen with some past biosimilars.”
The expectation that Truxima may win market share faster than some other biosimilars launched in the US is in line with Pfizer’s assessment of the broader market. Pfizer has seen its cancer biosimilars take off faster than its off-patent autoimmune products, a fact it attributed to the higher percentage of new patients in oncology indications.
If those dynamics play out in Teva’s launches, the Israeli company could hurt Roche over the coming months and years. Teva plans to follow up the launch of Truxima with the introduction of a biosimilar copy of Roche’s Herceptin (trastuzumab) late in the first quarter of 2020.
Herceptin already faces biosimilar competition in the US. Sales of the drug held up in Roche’s first set of results since the arrival of biosimilar competition but the Swiss drugmaker expects that to change in the coming quarters, predicting that off-patent rivals will have a “significant impact” on US sales.