Zarxio tests the U.S. biosimilars market

Biosimilars will probably not take the United States pharmaceutical market by storm but they may find faster acceptance here than they did in Europe, one expert tells the Wall Street Journal. Kate Keeping of the research company Decision Research Group says that U.S. physicians are much more familiar with biosimilars than European physicians had been before biosimilars were launched there. “It’s less likely that you’re going to see restrictions on uptake due to physicians being hesitant,” she tells the WSJ.

Maybe. But maybe it’s a systematic problem. Ronny Gal, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, tells the newspaper that countries with a strong central health care payer tend to take to biosimilars faster than those that lack such central control. In that case, doctors must decide.

Sandoz, a unit of Novartis, this month launched Zarxio, a biosimilar of Amgen’s biologic Neupogen, which fights infections in cancer patients. Zarzio, the European version of Zarxio, has been in that market since 2008. It’s 10% to 30% cheaper than Neupogen, in contrast to 80% to 95% discounts for generics of small-molecule drugs.

Biosimilars supporters argue that they “could still bring significant cost savings since the drugs they copy are so expensive to begin with.”

Again, much hinges on physician buy-in, not always a sure thing, as a recent survey of gastroenterologists illustrates.