On June 12, Coherus Biosciences received word of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) rejection of its biosimilar pegfilgrastim. Manufacturers have now taken 3 swings and misses, striking out in their quest for a biosimilar version of another blockbuster product.
In 2016, Sandoz whiffed on its version, after having the nonpegylated version approved in 2015 (Zarxio®). Although details of the FDA’s complete response letter were not released, Sandoz decided to withdraw its application to the European Medicines Agency as well. In December 2014, Apotex was the first to submit its pegfilgrastim application to the FDA, but it was similarly rejected.
The remaining biosimilar version of Neulasta® awaiting its turn at bat in the US is from Mylan/Biocon. Submitted in February of this year, the FDA decision is due October 9, 2017. Pfizer is working on its own version of pegfilgrastim (HSP-130), which is in phase 2 study. Apotex’s Apobiologix unit is still seeking approval of its biosimilar, according to its website. In Europe, 2 pegfilgrastim applications are currently awaiting decisions, but none have been approved to date.
On the bright side, the FDA’s complete response letter to Coherus did not indicate that the game is over. Apparently, the agency asked for a re-analysis of specific data and requested further information regarding manufacturing its biosimilar agent. The drug maker indicated its willingness to work with FDA to resolve these concerns.
There seems to be something about the pegylated version of filgrastim that makes it more difficult to obtain an approval during the first plate appearance. It may well be that Mylan’s application hits it out of the park in October. However, the batting average of drug makers pitching their other biosimilars is far better—Pfizer’s second try at approving epoetin seems to have been a hit (with a 14-1 margin by the FDA Advisory Committee).
With $4.5 billion in US sales of Neulasta last year, there will be no shortage of hitters willing to come to the plate.