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Biosimilars are proving to be a tougher sell in the U.S. than was expected

Headlines alleging manipulations of the drug market feed the public perception of big, bad pharma, but they do little to tell the whole story of the challenges of launching a biosimilar.

A read between the lines reveals that the biosimilars market, especially in these early days in the U.S., may prove much more forbidding than many companies expected. Drug sponsors like Pfizer Inc. are finding that it takes a lot more than a 15 percent discount to challenge the dynasties of blockbuster biologics that have had nearly two decades to establish themselves on payer formularies and to build their reputation as the go-to choice for the doctors that administer them.

Ten months ago, Pfizer, of New York, launched Inflectra as the first biosimilar to Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) Remicade (infliximab) on the U.S. market. In the first half of this year, Inflectra seized slightly more than 5 percent of the U.S. infliximab market – less than what either Pfizer or J&J had expected. Pfizer blamed the slow growth on J&J, filing a lawsuit this week that claimed the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company used exclusionary contracts and other anticompetitive activities to protect its Remicade monopoly. (See BioWorld, Sept. 21, 2017.)

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