After coming to a settlement agreement (which may have been
prodded by Amgen’s
launch of Mvasi® in July), Pfizer can launch Zirabev®
at the end of this year.
by Aiden Fry at The Pink Sheet and confirmed
by Kelly Davio at the Center for Biosimilars, the settlement
between Genentech and Pfizer was signed September 19. It clears all remaining
patent suits filed by Genentech (and its parent Roche), and if it follows the
standard terms of previous agreements, pays a license to the maker of the
reference product (Avastin®).
Amgen decided to launch Mvasi at-risk, gaining the advantage
of being the first bevacizumab biosimilar available for prescription. The legal
case brought by Genentech against Amgen hinges less on patent infringement but
more on whether 6-month notice of launch was provided (or needed). The next
step in this case is reportedly a trial sometime in 2020.
At least five other
bevacizumab biosimilars are actively being investigated, but none of these
are likely to be approved in 2020 (none have filed 351[k] applications to
The partnership of Amgen and Allergan made a huge splash in the biosimilar market by announcing the simultaneous US launches of the first two biosimilars of anticancer monoclonal antibodies. The agents Kanjinta® (trastuzumab-anns) and Mvasi® (bevacizumab-awwb) were officially made available July 18.
The move occurred almost simultaneously with a court denial
of Genentech’s request for a restraining
order against Amgen. For Amgen, this marks the first two biosimilars to
The launch discounts associated with these two agents is only 15% off of average wholesale price (AWP), but the manufacturers point out that is still significantly below the average selling price (ASP) of the two reference drugs—13% lower than that for Herceptin® and 12% lower than that for Avastin®. This pricing does not include potential rebates or discounts that could further reduce the net costs of these biosimilars.
The launch timing raises the question of when the
FDA-approved biosimilar competition will be launched. Other biosimilars in the
trastuzumab space have signed
licensing agreements with Genentech, the maker of Herceptin. Their launch
dates have not been disclosed. Several biosimilar makers have also signed
licensing agreements with Genentech on their versions of Avastin, and their
launch dates may be upcoming as well.
Assuming the licensing agreements compel the other
manufacturers to pay some percentage of sales or profits to Genentech, this
could give Amgen/Allergan an automatic edge in profitability. It is unknown
whether the launch timing of Mvasi and Kanjinti, have any implications for the
existing licensing agreements. For example, it may be possible that an early
launch by an unlicensed competitor could negate specific clauses of these
The bevacizumab biosimilar class progress had stagnated
through court proceedings and licensing agreements. In a post from January
2019, we had noted that Amgen had notified the court that it was prepared to
launch as early as
On the trastuzumab side, Amgen/Allergan’s product was the most
recently approved biosimilar (in June 2019).
joint press release, they quoted Paula Schneider, CEO of the Susan G. Komen
Breast Cancer Foundation. “The introduction of biosimilars is an important
step in increasing options for treating HER2-positive breast cancers, which
account for about 25% of all breast cancers,” she said. “As patient
advocates, we are working to ensure that patients are educated about
biosimilars and understand that these FDA-approved treatments are just as
effective as the original biologic drugs.”
It seems that AbbVie has won the battle and the war. The last remaining holdout in the fight to bring a biosimilar adalimumab to market before 2023 has capitulated, as AbbVie announced May 14 that Boehringer Ingelheim agreed to the terms of a licensing arrangement. This agreement allows Boehringer Ingelheim to enter the marketplace July 1, 2023, getting a slight jump on some other licensees, but it effectively ends the protracted patent litigation that Boehringer hoped to win.
In an interview with BR&R, Molly Burich, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Director, Public Policy, Biosimilars and Pipeline, told us in October 2018, “We are committed to making Cyltezo® available to US patients as soon as possible and certainly before 2023.”
WHICH COMPANIES HAVE SIGNED LICENSING DEALS WITH ABBVIE?
Mylan/Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics
at that time, Ms. Burich also disclosed that Cyltezo would not be
commercialized in Europe; in October, the stampede of biosimilar manufacturers had
just left the starting gate. In addition, Boehringer had earlier decided to
drop plans to develop other biosimilars in the pipeline and focus solely on
Cyltezo. That would seem to leave Boehringer out in the cold until July 2023.
In response to BR&R’s
query, Susan Holz, Boehringer’s Director
of Communications, Specialty Care, provided the following statement: “As
we previously shared, at this point in time, our focus remains on providing
patient access to our biosimilar Cyltezo in the US, and future biosimilars
activities will be driven out of this market. Boehringer Ingelheim continuously
evaluates our business portfolio, and we assess potential strategic
partnerships to help enhance our pipeline and development capabilities. As you
know, we have stopped development activities for the rest of the world, and I
am not able to comment on specifics regarding our biosimilar in- or
Boehringer Ingelheim had
reported that it is seeking the interchangeability designation for its adalimumab
biosimilar. In the possible scenario where Cyltezo won its patent challenge,
and gained the interchangeability designation from the FDA (note that FDA only issued
its final interchangeability guidelines draft this week), the marketing potential
was rosy indeed. However, suppose the FDA approves the interchangeability label
for Cyltezo. It cannot leverage it until after Amgen’s and Samsung Bioepis’
adalimumab biosimilars have launched. Will it have the same advantage? That’s
difficult to say. Payers will be anxious to grab immediate savings on this
product, and interchangeability may not be considered such a great benefit.
That is, in four years, will payers routinely switch available biosimilar
agents anyway? My guess is that health plans and insurers will be leaning in
On the other hand, it will be easier to automatically switch patients in nearly every state. That lever will only be used if Boehringer gives payers a real reason to use it—a significantly better deal than the existing options. AbbVie offered huge discounts (on the order of 80% in some countries) in an effort to hang on to some marketshare once biosimilars were available in the EU. After all, why worry about interchangeability and switching when you can continue to use Humira® at a 75% discount?
Ms. Holz told BR&R, “In regards to interchangeability, this is a very important issue for many stakeholders, as it is the catalyst for automatic substitution at the pharmacy level, which in turn may help drive efficient use of biosimilars and maximize the cost-saving potential of these important medicines.” She added, “We were very pleased to see the Agency finalized interchangeability guidance that retained the appropriate balance between a high-bar to prove interchangeability and product-specific flexibility to make such a status attainable.”
In the next four years, the price of Humira will undoubtedly rise. This will mean that savings gained in 2023 will be little more than money lost to the system over the previous 48 months. As significantly, it represents tens of billions of dollars into AbbVie’s bottom line from a product that was approved in the US 17 years ago.
The multitude of companies that have lined up to sign 2023 licensing
agreements with Abbvie on sales of Humira® biosimilars has grown
again. The latest biosimilar maker added to the list is Coherus Biosciences.
Coherus has an investigational adalimumab biosimilar that completed
a phase 3 trial in 2017 in patients with plaque
psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. CHS-1420 was found to yield similar
clinical outcomes compared with the reference product.
According to the press
release from Coherus announcing the deal, the biosimilar will be available
for marketing December 15, 2023. This will make it the eighth biosimilar version
of adalimumab to enter the market, with Amgen entering first, in January of
that year. As with the other deals signed by Abbvie, this signing concludes any
patent litigation between the parties and Coherus will pay royalties to Abbvie
on the sales of its biosimilar.
Coherus is expected to file a submission with the European
Medicines Agency, though the timing of this filing has not been disclosed. Furthermore,
it has not yet signed a deal with a marketing partner. In past conference
calls, the biosimilar maker has indicated that it will not focus its resources
on sales of its products outside the US.
COHERUS SUES AMGEN
OVER ADALIMUMAB PATENTS
To complicate matters a bit more, Coherus has launched a patent
infringement suit against Amgen, believed to be the first of a biosimilar
maker against another. Amgen’s Amjevita® was approved by the Food and
Drug Administration in 2016, and has been for sale in the EU. Coherus intends
to file for FDA approval in Q4 2019. Coherus contends that Amgen’s manufacture
of Amjevita violates Coherus’ US patents 10,155,039; 10,159,732; and
10,159,733. These patents involve the creation of stable aqueous formulations of
“damages adequate to compensate for past, present, and future infringement,” which
could have implications for revenues from the European sales of Amgen’s
biosimilar, because of its manufacture in the US. In addition, Coherus seeks an
injunction from the court that permanently enjoins Amgen from engaging in
further alleged infringement.
Coherus President and CEO Denny Lanfear said in its January
25th press release, “Coherus recognized early on the central role intellectual
property would play in advancing biosimilars to market. One important element
of our IP strategy for advancing [CHS-1420] is reflected in the success we’ve
achieved in patenting our innovations in the field of adalimumab formulation.
We believe in the strength of our IP and we intend to protect it.”
Although generic manufacturers engaging in patent suits with
competitors has occasionally occurred, this may be a first in the biosimilar
community. I suppose it was only a matter of time.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on January 18, 2019 the approval of a new biosimilar version of trastuzumab. Produced by Samsung Bioepis, this agent was dubbed Ontruzant (trastuzumab-dttb).
This is the third trastuzumab biosimilar approved by the FDA, following those by Mylan and Biocon in December 2017 (Ogivri®) and Teva and Celltrion last month (Herzuma®). As with biosimilars other than Herzuma and the reference biologic Herceptin®, this agent is approved for use in the treatment of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer and the treatment of HER2-overexpressing metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Herzuma is not approved for the latter indication.
As with Renflexis®, Samsung Bioepis’ first FDA-approved
biosimilar, Merck will market the product in the US when launched. No launch
date has yet been revealed.
Mylan and Biocon had signed a licensing agreement with
Roche, the manufacturer of Herceptin, which ended their patent fight, but which
delayed launch. Teva and Celltrion have not yet disclosed whether a similar
deal has been reached with Roche. Pfizer has an investigational trastuzumab
biosimilar, and they too have signed
a licensing agreement with Roche.
With Pfizer expecting to hear back on its 351(k) resubmission on a trastuzumab biosimilar in early 2019, Genentech and its parent, Roche, may have been getting nervous about their competitor’s intentions. After all, Pfizer was willing to launch at risk with its marketing of Inflectra®, the infliximab biosimilar manufactured by partner Celltrion. In fact, it is the only biosimilar manufacturer that has gambled on an at-risk biosimilar launch.
According to a report in the Pink Sheet, a district court filing on December 4 noted that the two parties signed a settlement that will put an end to their patent litigation, and presumably allow Pfizer to market its biosimilar trastuzumab in the US at a future date. As in previous agreements signed by Roche, the terms are confidential, and launch dates and licensing fees are unknown.
A similar confidential agreement was completed between Mylan and Roche, for Mylan and partner Biocon’s Ogivri®, the first trastuzumab biosimilar approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2017.
Three other trastuzumab biosimilars are also trying to reach the market. Amgen and Allergan received a complete response letter in June 2018, and have not yet announced when it might resubmit its 351(k) application. Samsung Bioepis is awaiting its initial decision on its trastuzumab biosimilar, filed in January 2018. Teva and Celltrion seem to be on the cusp of an FDA decision, after receiving their initial rejection in July 2017.
Roche has it covered, though. It filed patient litigation against Samsung Bioepis in September 2018 and partners Celltrion and Teva as well.
This is the very situation that the federal government, payers, and patients want to try to avoid, however. Licensing fees paid to the reference manufacturers may work to significantly inflate the drug’s price to the health system. The lack of transparency characterizing these agreements and the associated delays in launch are being decried by those patients and entities who can benefit from access to biosimilar competition. Herceptin was first approved in 1998. No one envisioned Genentech having 20+ years of marketing exclusivity.
In other biosimilarnews… MomentaPharmaceuticals, which signed an Abbvie licensing agreement for its biosimilar adalimumab, said in a statement that it will delay FDA filing M923 beyond 2019, which will help reduce its corporate expenditures. This delay should not impact the expected commercial launch date of November 20, 2023, according to the company.
Celltrion announced that it has filed an application for European Medicines Agency approval for its subcutaneous form of its infliximab biosimilar Remsima (US brand name, Inflectra®). This would provide the first subcutaneous injection formulation of infliximab.
We previously reported that Momenta Pharmaceuticals reevaluated its biopharmaceutical strategy going forward, deciding to move forward only with its investigational adalimumab and aflibercept biosimilars. Yesterday, Momenta announced that it has joined the long queue of pharmaceutical manufacturers signing a biosimilar licensing deal with Abbvie, which will allow commercialization of M923, its biosimilar to Humira, should it obtain regulatory approval. Momenta’s licensing deal is the fifth one signed by prospective biosimilar marketers in the US.
This agreement was pretty much a no-brainer for Momenta. The company did not have the stomach for attempting either an extended patent fight or an at-risk launch. However, the biosimilar licensing agreement only allows Momenta to market its adalimumab biosimilar in the US after December 2023, which will make it the fifth Humira biosimilar that will launch under the licensing agreements (Table). The main patents for Humira have expired in Europe, and these agreements have generally allowed the European launches to occur as of October 16 of this year.
Of the manufacturers signing biosimilar licensing deals with Abbvie , only Amgen and Sandoz have earned FDA approval for Amjevita® and Hyrimoz®, respectively. And Boehringer Ingelheim is still duking out patent litigation with Abbvie in the courts over its approved biosimilar agent Cytelzo®, for which it hopes to receive an interchangeability designation. The second through fifth agents entering the fight will be likely pounding away at subsequently smaller slices of revenue.
Perhaps the most frustrating part is that Abbvie is running a lucrative game; it will collect royalties from all of these manufacturers in 2023 and beyond, which will help offset declining marketshare from its biggest revenue contributor.
In Abbvie’s Web: Who Has Signed Licensing Agreements for Biosimilar Adalimumab?
Mylan/Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics
*Received FDA Approval.
Note: This post was revised and corrected, November 8, 2018.