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Pfizer challenges Roche blockbusters with 3 biosim launches at discounts from 22% to 24%

Pfizer hit some unexpected roadblocks with its first U.S. biosimilar launch, but it’s not giving up in the budding field. Now, the drugmaker is launching biosims to three Roche cancer blockbusters at discounts ranging from 22% to 24%.  

The company has already rolled out Zirabev and Ruxience, its biosimilars to Roche’s Avastin and Rituxan, respectively, at discounts of 23% and 24%. On February 15, it’s planning to launch Herceptin biosimilar Trazimera at a 22% discount, the company said Thursday. 

All three Roche meds are already facing U.S. biosimilar competition and pulled in more than $10 billion combined at peak. For its part, Pfizer says it’ll be the first company to market three oncology monoclonal antibody biosimilars in the U.S. 

The drugmaker has been active in the U.S. biosim market, starting with its Inflectra launch in October 2016. That copycat to Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster immunology med Remicade hit the market at a 15% discount and couldn’t gain traction against the entrenched competition. 

Pfizer later sued J&J for making “anticompetitive” deals with payers that blocked out biosimilar competition. Pfizer said J&J tied Remicade’s rebates to the stipulation that payers don’t use biosimilars, while J&J hit back that Pfizer hadn’t offered enough value to win business.

U.S. sales for Inflectra have picked up somewhat and reached $208 million in the first nine months of 2019. Still, that’s compared to a much bigger $2.32 billion haul for Remicade over the same span.  

Since that rollout, Pfizer has also launched Retacrit, a biosim to J&J’s Procrit and Amgen’s Epogen. That copycat hit the market in November 2018 at a 33% discount. On an October conference call, Pfizer’s biopharma chief Angela Hwang said Retacrit had nabbed 16% of market share, the most of any biosim in the U.S.  

That experience has “given us the opportunity to learn about what it will take to launch oncology biosimilars as well as what we can expect in this particular space,” she said on the call. 

Pfizer will be entering a competitive market with its newest biosims. Roche’s Rituxan already faces competition from the Teva-Celltrion team, while Avastin is facing off against a copycat from Amgen and Allergan. Herceptin faces competition from that same Amgen-Allergan duo, plus another in Mylan-Biocon.