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What will Pfizer do with its second Remicade biosimilar?

Published on 14/12/17 at 09:18am

Pfizer is now in the unusual position of owning two biosimilars to Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade, though one of these is in partnership with Celltrion.

The FDA approved its second biosimilar, Ixifi, but with it already heavily invested in the commercialisation of Inflectra, alongside Celltrion, the question remains about what Pfizer will choose to do with its second version?

It has already sold the rights to Novartis’ generics division, Sandoz, to commercialise the biosimilar in 28 EU member states and with three further partners within the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

This still leaves Pfizer with a large market it could potentially commercialise in but it seems unlikely that it would disrupt its partnership with Celltrion by encroaching on the US territory.

This opens up the possibility of selling to the rest of the world – this would mean missing out on two major areas, Europe and the US, a prospect that may be deemed more trouble than it’s worth.

Pfizer already has its hands full in the biosimilar business, with two other approved biosimilar medicines Retacrit and Nivestim, a pipeline of 13 further molecules, and a legal battle with J&J in the US.

The latter is particularly significant because Pfizer hasn’t been able to make the sales impact it would have liked with Inflectra. It launched a lawsuit against J&J claiming anti-competitive practices, after J&J offered serious discounts on Remicade in return for being contractually obliged not purchase Pfizer’s biosimilar.

This meant that Pfizer managed to snag only $34 million in the third quarter in the US market, leaving sales out in the cold compared to J&J’s blockbuster that brought in $1.65 billion in the same period.

Reuters reported a Pfizer spokesperson regarding the plans for its second biosimilar, as saying: “We are currently evaluating our strategic options for Ixifi. But we are continuing to commercialize Inflectra in the US”.

Given the headache it has already experienced bringing a biosimilar to the US market, it seems likely that it may look to divest the rights of its biosimilar to a competitor – in a similar deal to the one struck with Sandoz.

Ben Hargreaves

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