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)