Korean biosimilar drugs have begun to expand their presence in the global market.
According to industry sources, prescriptions of biosimilars by Celltrion, Samsung Bioepis, and Samsung Biologics are increasing in the U.S. and Europe.
Celltrion’s Remsima, the first antibiotic biosimilar in the world, is selling well in the U.S.
Inflectra, under the brand name of Remsima, sold $108 million in the U.S. last year, according to Lee Tae-young, an analyst at Meritz Securities. The monthly sales of the drug have been exceeding $10 million since August.
Remsima is beating the original drug Remicade and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the developer of Remicade, admitted it in a recent earnings report.
J&J’s Remicade dropped 8.5 percent to $1.07 billion in the fourth quarter year-on-year, compared with $1.17 billion a year earlier, the company said. J&J attributed the sales decline to cheaper biosimilars' market entry.
In contrast, inflectra seller Pfizer’s earnings improved.
Pfizer said on Tuesday that inflectra’s global sales rose to $135 million in the fourth quarter, up two-folds from $61 million in the same period of 2016.
Over the same period, inflectra’s U.S. sales surged 11-folds from $4 million to $44 million, according to the company’s public filing.
In Europe, Samsung biosimilars are making meaningful moves.
Samsung Bioepis said Enbrel-referencing biosimilar Benepali and Remicade-copying Flixabi sold more than 400 billion won in the European market last year.
According to the earnings report by Samsung Bioepis’ commercialization partner Biogen, the combined revenues of Benepali and Flixabi jumped 277 percent to $379.8 million last year from a year earlier.
Benepali’s sales last year at $370.8 million are more than three times the 2016 revenue of $100.6 million. Flixabi’s revenue marked $9 million last year, showing steady sales growth since its first market launch in the third quarter of 2016.
Biogen said the sales of the two drugs rose sharply in the fourth quarter, as the company has won regional biddings in France, Italy, and Belgium. The company said it expects its earnings to continue to rise.
Analysts forecast that Korean biosimilars’ aggressive sales growth will continue for the time being, as they are in a favorable position in recent patent disputes.
Celltrion won a patent suit against J&J in the U.S. Samsung Bioepis said Janssen voluntarily dropped a lawsuit to block Renflexis, a Remicade biosimilar, from sales in the U.S.
“Due to high prices of original drugs in the U.S. and Europe, people are using more biosimilars. Korean biosimilars’ good performance in the global market will affect the local prescription trends,” a pharmaceutical industry source said.
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