Cheaper? First New Biosimilar Drug Still Expensive — For Now
The price of Zarxio, made by Novartis, will likely be 15 percent lower eventually than Amgen's Neupogen -- but The Washington Post says that the actual spending on the drugs in the short term will be much closer. Pharmaceutical companies are bracing for a barrage of biosimilar drugs that could cut into their profits. Elsewhere, more seniors find themselves in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole," and a hedge-fund manager vows to keep challenging drug patents.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog:
The First In A New Generation Of Cheaper Drugs Isn’t Much Cheaper
The first in a long-awaited category of drugs that have been projected to save tens of billions of dollars over the next decade became available today. But its price tag highlights a question economists and industry watchers have been wrestling with for the past few months: how much will these new drugs actually bring down prices? The new drug, Zarxio, is the first American "biosimilar" -- a copycat version of a complex biologic drug. (Johnson, 9/3)
Novartis Launches First U.S. 'Biosimilar' Drug At 15 Percent Discount
Novartis kicked off a new era in U.S. medicine on Thursday with the launch of the first "biosimilar" copy of a biotechnology drug approved in the United States, at a discount of 15 percent to the original. The Swiss drugmaker's generics unit Sandoz said Zarxio, its form of Amgen's white blood cell-boosting product Neupogen, would increase access to an important treatment by offering a "high-quality, more affordable version". (Hirschler and Shields, 9/3)
The Wall Street Journal:
Big Pharma: The Moment of Dread Is Here
The initial stakes are low for the imminent launch of the first U.S. biosimilar drug. Pharmaceutical companies that develop branded drugs shouldn’t expect them to stay that way. ... Beyond Zarxio’s launch, the stakes will get higher as discounts get larger. Likewise, competition will intensify. In aggregate, drugs with biosimilar competition on the way—such as AbbVie’s Humira or Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade—totaled more than $25 billion in U.S. sales in 2014. (Grant, 9/3)
Rising Drug Costs Send More Medicare Recipients Into The "Donut Hole"
Milly Scott first fell into the Medicare Part D coverage gap a year ago. A seven-year beneficiary of the government prescription coverage program for seniors, Mrs. Scott saw her co-payment for the anti-depressant Pristiq hold steady the last two years at $285 for a 90-day supply. But, between that and her other medications, she fell the program’s “donut hole” of reduced coverage for the first time in October. This year, she landed in the gap even earlier — in July. ... While the federal Affordable Care Act will eventually eliminate the gap, rising drug costs until then are sending more seniors into the hole. (Twedt, 9/4)
The Wall Street Journal:
Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass Vows To Continue Drug-Patent Challenges
Hedge-fund manager Kyle Bass says he’ll persist in his campaign to invalidate what he calls weak pharmaceutical patents, despite being handed two early setbacks in recent weeks. ... On Wednesday, a panel of judges employed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to review Mr. Bass’s challenge to Biogen Inc.’s multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera patent. The ruling, which came ahead of schedule, followed a denial in August of Mr. Bass’s challenges to Acorda Therapeutics Inc.’s drug Ampyra. (Walker, 9/3)