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- 01/17/2018

Roche faces threat of copycat biologic drugs

Pharma Horizon

Roche has in the past year lost exclusivity on long-time blockbusters such as the breast cancer treatment Herceptin  and its blood cancer medicine MabThera 

Another cancer drug, Avastin, is also facing biosimilar competition, although it will retain patent protection in the US until 2020. All three drugs have typically generated about $7bn sales a year each and these developments have left the Swiss drug-maker company more immediately exposed than many of its rivals to the coming wave of copycat biologic drugs.

Severin Schwan, Roche chief executive, talking to the Finacial Times says these are “highly, highly profitable medicines coming off patent. And, on the other hand, we have new medicines which we have to ramp up. And that puts a lot of pressure on the profitability.”

And the just ended 2017 has shown the company willing to develop a new generation of drugs with successful trials for Hemlibra for haemophilia and Tecentriq for lung cancer, which when taken with Avastin and chemotherapy reduced the risk of cancer spreading.
Roche hopes this combination treatment will allow it to compete with rivals such as Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb to become the first treatment for lung cancer patients.

However, Mr. Schwan is realistic and acknowledges that producing a new drug carries costs, including those associated with its launch, pointing  out: “So while we hope to compensate on a sales level, of course, the profitability at this stage is a very different one.”


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