- Johnson & Johnson is banking on competitive pricing and a loyal consumer base to safeguard sales of its blockbuster Remicade (infliximab) against the impending release of Pfizer’s biosimilar, Inflectra, the company said on Tuesday.
- The pharma giant presented its “Biosimilar Readiness Plan” during a third quarter earnings call on October 17. Executives also revealed the company plans to file more than 40 potential line extensions and new drugs by the end of 2019.
- The company reported $17.8 billion in sales for the third quarter, a 4% increase from the same period in 2015. Pharmaceutical sales were up 9% to $8.4 billion, buoyed by higher sales of Remicade, Stelara (ustekinemab) and Imbruvica (ibrutinib). Those gains helped offset slight declines in J&J’s consumer arm.
Remicade easily outpaced all other J&J drugs in the third quarter, bringing in $1.78 billion in sales — $900 million more than the second-highest earning drug Stelara. But with the Inflectra’s looming market launch, J&J spent a good amount of time on Tuesday’s call addressing how it would weather the storm.
Pfizer announced after the close on Monday that it intends to launch its biosimilar Inflectra in late November at a 15% discount to Remicade.
J&J tried to make a case for why Remicade will prevail, with Joaquin Duato, worldwide chairman of J&J Pharmaceuticals noting that it has experience dealing with Remicade biosimilar competition in Australia, Brazil and Canada. In those countries, the company was able to hold onto more than 90% volume share even after competition from biosimilars.
"The appeals process is still ongoing and we believe any commercial launch of a biosimilar remains at risk," said Duato. "There’s been 2.6 million patients treated with Remicade worldwide, there’s no interchangeability, there’s a clear patient preference. So it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to be seeing patients who are stable in Remicade switch it."
Yet, Merck —which markets Remicade in Europe—saw annual sales last year plummet by nearly $600 million, compared to 2014. In the face of this evidence, J&J has continued to express optimism about Remicade's performance.
"We not only feel that we are going to be able to grow in the face of biosimilar the pharmaceutical business overall, but we also are confident that we're going to be able to grow our Immunology franchise in the face of biosimilars," added Duato.
While the company is confident, investors and analysts continued to raise questions about the impact of biosimilars. Shares of the multinational conglomerate were down $3 to close at $115.41 on Tuesday, trading at high volume.