Go big or go home, seems to be the message of Coherus’ President Dennis Lanfear. At the JP Morgan Investor Conference yesterday in San Francisco, he outlined what he considers a “full-on branded launch” for the biosimilar maker’s key product. Udenyca was officially launched on January 3.
In preparation for the launch of Udenyca, Coherus Bioscience
$75 million in financing to shore up its cash position and to support its
The First Payer Deal
More than half of the current pegfilgrastim claims are reimbursed
by commercial payers, with Medicare accounting for an additional one-third. Mr.
Lanfear announced a couple of important payer developments that should benefit
sales immediately. He said that Coherus “inked a deal with Anthem Blue Cross
Blue Shield last week,” but did not elaborate on the terms. Although he alluded
to a press release on Coherus’ website, none had been posted at the time of
this writing. He also mentioned that Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South
Carolina had independently begun “requesting Neulasta users to step through
Fulphila or Udenyca before filling those claims.”
The group purchasing organization (GPO) market “is highly
focused,” said Mr. Lanfear. “About a dozen players account for 95% of the
market. 340B hospitals represents around $963 billion in annual revenue.
Vizient accounted for $824 million in Neulasta sales last year (about 35% of
the non-340B market), and welcomed us to the market.”
Greatest Pegfilgrastim Market Opportunities
He believes, “Biosimilars with pass-through status can
provide significant value in non-340B settings. They may be the lowest price
side of the market, but most motivated.” According to Mr. Lanfear, these facilities’
efforts at cost recovery is expected to drive the market.
Udenyca and Fulphila are priced
identically at $4,175 or at a 33% discount to Neulasta Udenyca’s 33% WAC
discount per syringe to avoid payer disincentives. Specifically, after discounting
and rebates, Amgen’s ASP for Neulasta was $4,422, which gives the payer an
immediate ASP discount. In previous biosimilar launches, their manufacturers’ smaller
discounts had actually resulted in higher ASP costs than the reference
product. In those cases, payers were reluctant to encourage biosimilar use, at
least until the biosimilar had sufficient time in the marketplace where its own
ASP could be calculated. “Having our unique HCPCS code results in an ability to
control our own ASP,” said Mr. Lanfear. This is the direct result of the
current administration’s efforts to fix the original
Further, he believes that Coherus can take advantage of
Udenyca’s reimbursement opportunity in the buy-and-bill sector. At present, Neulasta
is reimbursed at ASP – 22.5%. [Non-340b] pass-through status will be designated
in April 1, 2019, and Udenyca will be reimbursed at ASP + 6% for at least 2
years from that date. (Fulphila currently has pass-through status). This
prevents biosimilars from being disadvantaged from the provider perspective.
A National and
Regional Sales Structure
To support the new launch, Coherus has created a formidable
sales force and structure, including:
- 67 Oncology account managers
- 7 Regional sales directors
- 7 Key account directors
- 7 Field reimbursement specialists
- 7 Medical science liaisons
- 3 Group purchasing directors
- 4 Payer directors
Mr. Lanfear believes that creation of this extensive sales organization has not been done before with a biosimilar. And he emphasized that they expect to leverage this salesforce infrastructure for its pipeline products, including biosimilar adalimumab, biosimilar ranibizumab, biosimilar aflibercept, and a small-molecule treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Coherus has ramped up its production, to be able to handle
demand from all its customers, and it has used the LASH Group to develop the Coherus COMPLETE support site for
patients and providers.
Coherus’ plan for a “branded-type” launch for its biosimilar
pegfilgrastim seems to afford benefits in pricing, sales, supply, and services.
We await news of their progress.