Are the EU's steep biosim discounts the ghost of US biosimilars' future?
- While the first biosimilar was approved in the U.S. earlier this year, biosimilars have been marketed in Europe since 2006.
- Currently, the biosimilar version of Merck's Remicade (infliximab), which is marketed by South Korea-based Celltrion and distributed in Europe through Hospira and other companies, is sold at an average discount of 45% in the E.U.
- Biosimilar uptake rates vary throughout Europe, with rates as high as 80% in Poland, roughly 67% in Norway, 33% in Finland and Hungary and 10% in Germany and Spain. Biosimilar use is still relatively low in Britain and France.
Thomson Reuters has predicted that by 2020, the global market for biosimilars will hit $25 billion. Much of that market will likely still be dominated by Europe, given the head start it has over the U.S. However, chances are good that as new biosimilar entrants come into the U.S. market and competition increases, the 15% discount assigned to Sandoz's recently approved Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz) will seem meager compared with more robust discounts.
In fact, further analysis of the European market, using infliximab as an example, demonstrates the effect of competition—or at the very least competitive market forces. Although Celltrion's biosimilar infliximab is still the only one on the market, Samsung Bioepsis is planning to launch its own version of biosimilar Remicade next year, as well as a biosimilar version of Pfizer's Enbrel (etanercept).
Like Remicade, Enbrel is an anti-TNF injectable drug that treats inflammatory conditions, such as rheummatoid arthritis. By looking at uptake of the biosimilars for this class of drugs, it is possible to peer into the future of the U.S. healthcare market and see what's coming in the next 10 years.