October 17, 2018 / 7:46 AM / 10 months ago

Samsung launches third rival to AbbVie's Humira drug in EU

LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - South Korea's Samsung Bioepis and its partner Biogen have launched a third rival to AbbVie's blockbuster medicine Humira in Europe, ramping up competition for a slice of the world's top-selling prescription drug's sales.

Wednesday's launch follows similar moves a day earlier by Amgen and Novartis's Sandoz unit. A fourth so-called biosimilar copy of Humira is expected soon from Mylan .

The primary European patent on Humira expired on Oct. 16, opening the door to cheaper near-identical copies for treating rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and psoriasis.

Humira's worldwide sales were $18 billion last year, of which around $4 billion came from Europe, and healthcare providers are hoping for significant savings with the arrival of cut-price rivals.

Samsung Bioepis is a joint venture between Samsung BioLogics and Biogen.

News of the launch comes amid a slide in Samsung BioLogics shares after a local media report that said the company faces disciplinary action due to alleged accounting violations. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Jason Neely)

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