(Adds analyst, Pfizer comment)
By Bill Berkrot
Oct 17 Pfizer Inc said on Monday it will
begin shipping its biosimilar version of Johnson & Johnson's
blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade in late
November at a 15 percent discount to current wholesale prices.
The Pfizer drug, to be sold under the name Inflectra, is
already available in Europe and other overseas markets and would
be the second biosimilar medicine available in the United
As it is not possible to produce exact copies of biotech
drugs made from living cells, the cheaper versions - referred to
as biosimilars rather than generics - are intended to provide
cost savings compared with pricey biologic medicines.
Remicade is J&J's biggest selling drug with U.S. sales of
about $5 billion a year.
J&J's forecasts for 2016 had assumed no competition from a
Remicade biosimilar this year. Its shares slipped nearly 0.5
percent to $118.00 in after-hours trading.
J&J said in an emailed statement that it considers any sales
by Pfizer of a Remicade biosimilar to be an "at risk launch."
That could entitle the company to triple damages if Pfizer is
found in court to have infringed Remicade patents.
A Pfizer spokeswoman said the company could not comment on
Pfizer's pricing for the drug below Remicade wholesale costs
does not take into account discounts to health insurers,
distributors or other purchasing organizations, the company
JP Morgan analyst Michael Weinstein, in a research note,
forecast a Remicade revenue decline of just over $1 billion in
2017, costing J&J 20 cents in earnings per share.
"Inflectra's 15 percent discount should provide enough of an
incentive to help attract new patients ... but probably won't be
enough of a discount to entice stable patients to switch over,"
J&J said it expects to be competitive with the Remicade
"We intend to compete through a variety of innovative
contracting options, discounts and rebates to payers, providers
and pharmacy benefit managers to ensure Remicade remains an
affordable option for patients and physicians," a J&J statement
In addition to rheumatoid arthritis Inflectra, like
Remicade, is also approved to treat Crohn's disease, ulcerative
colitis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and the spine condition
Novartis last year began selling the first
biosimilar in the United States, a cheaper version of Amgen's
infection fighter Neupogen called Zarxio.
Several companies are developing biosimilar versions of the
top-selling biotech medicines for rheumatoid arthritis and
(Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson; editing by
Bernard Orr, G Crosse)