May 25 Personalized Medicine

The Business Cocktail

Merck's Remicade discounting put squeeze on biosims—and broke U.K. law, officials say

Under biosimilar assault in Europe, Merck rolled out cut-rate deals on Remicade to defend its brand from cheaper options, then-brand-new to the market. Now, the U.K.’s competition authority claims the pharma giant “broke competition law” by lowering the med's price. In a statement of objections issued on Tuesday, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says Merck abused a dominant position through a discount scheme for Remicade that was likely to restrict competition from ‘biosimilar’ versions of infliximab that were new to the market. Merck is known as MSD outside of the U.S. Discount deals are among the tactics Big Pharma is using to counter competition from biosimilar rivals—and increasingly so, as more of the knockoff drugs launch. Johnson & Johnson, now facing a Remicade biosimilar in the U.S., has said its own aggressive deals with payers will help the brand preserve sales. That sort of attempt is possible with biosimilars, as opposed to ultra cheap small-molecule generics, because the more complex knockoffs tend to be priced around 15% lower than the brand, within the realm of payer deal making.

Sanofi, Regeneron set Kevzara up for tough rheumatoid arthritis turf battle with $39K list price

Sanofi and Regeneron just added another building block to a nascent immunology franchise expected to bring in $5 billion or more by 2022. But to get there, their new Kevzara will have to go up against a host of other rheumatoid arthritis meds already on the market—and a few still on their way. One way Kevzara can do that is through a lower price. And Kevzara will have a list price of $39,000 per year, the companies say, 30% lower than the two most widely used TNF-alpha drugs, which will be among its chief competitors. Kevzara's nod comes more than six months after the FDA turned back the drug on manufacturing problems at a Sanofi plant where drugs are filled and finished. The two companies worked with the agency to fix them, and after a successful inspection earlier this year, the Kevzara approval was widely expected. Kevzara (sarilumab) is Sanofi and Regeneron’s second entry into the immunology field, after the approval of Dupixent, a treatment for severe eczema, in March.

Novartis to sever 250 U.S. workers days after announcing 500 cuts in Switzerland

Just days after announcing plans to ax 500 jobs in Switzerland, Novartis said another 250 jobs will be eliminated in the U.S., most at its headquarters in New Jersey with some of those headed to a service center in India.  The company filed a WARN notice with the state indicating that 204 jobs would be trimmed from its East Hanover, New Jersey, operations effective July 28. The company confirmed the cuts in an email today, saying the other 45 or so jobs will be eliminated from various U.S. locations including Fort Worth, Texas, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The job losses follow the company’s creation last year of the Global Drug Development function intended to streamline drug development across all of its units, except for its Alcon products division. The company is also adding and subtracting jobs around its global headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, but on a larger scale.

Teva officially puts women's health, cancer on divisions on sale

he Teva divestment rumors are true. The company plans to shop its women’s health and European oncology and pain businesses to potential buyers, hoping to snag some cash to pay down its debt. As interim CEO Yitzhak Peterburg told investors on the company’s first-quarter conference call, Teva expects the sale processes to “commence in the coming weeks,” and the Israeli drug maker thinks it can close out both transactions by the end of the year. Proceeds from those sales—as well as additional asset sales to come—will be “significantly in excess” of the $1 billion Teva previously predicted. Unfortunately for Teva’s workforce, though, as the company continues to look for ways to wring out costs, more jobs hang in the balance. Since the Allergan generics deal closed last summer, Teva has reduced headcount by approximately 5,000 people and expect further reductions through the end of 2017.

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