biotech copycat drug lift off before 2017: Novartis CEO
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[August 26, 2014]
BASEL Switzerland (Reuters) - Swiss
drugmaker Novartis AG does not expect copycat versions of biotech drugs
to play an important role in the healthcare system for another three to
five years, its chief executive said on Monday.
Novartis' generics unit Sandoz is the No. 1 player in the field of
copycat medicines, known as biosimilars because they are copies of
biotech medicines made from living cells that cannot be replicated
Chief Executive Joe Jimenez said biosimilars generated about$500
million in sales for Novartis and were growing at a rate of about 20
percent per year.
"I think in two to three years you're not going to see a big
difference," Jimenez told reporters gathered at Novartis' Basel
headquarters for an event about the healthcare challenges of an
But he said he expected an "inflection point" following big
biosimilar launches in 2017, 2018 and 2019, when many high-priced
antibody drugs, which are among the pharmaceutical industry's
biggest sellers, will lose patent protection.
"By the year 2020, which is just five years from now, you're going
to see a big impact," Jimenez said.
Several companies, including include Israel's Teva and Celltrion of
South Korea, are racing to develop biosimilars ahead of looming
patent expiries on blockbuster biotech medicines for treating cancer
and autoimmune diseases.
As the global population ages, drugmakers such as Novartis are
betting on a growing use of biosimilars as cash-strapped healthcare
systems look for ways to cut spending.
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But uncertainties over the U.S. regulatory framework for biosimilars,
plus high manufacturing costs and the need to run clinical trials to
win approval, have caused delays.
Novartis' local rival Roche has repeatedly pushed back forecasts for
when its expensive biotech cancer medicines will face generic
Roche now expects to see biosimilar competition for its blood cancer
drug MabThera, which lost patent protection at the end of last year
in Europe, from 2016.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by David Clarke)
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