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Novartis stocks drug cabinet with "Big-3" arthritis blockbusters

Novartis stocks drug cabinet with "Big-3" arthritis blockbusters
From Reuters - July 14, 2017

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's Novartis is stocking up cheaper versions of the world's top-selling arthritis medicines, hoping a broad portfolio gives it an edge on rivals with narrower offerings.

Novartis's near-copy of Amgen's Enbrel won European approval last month. It will submit versions of Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and AbbVie's Humira for regulators' blessing later this year.

These name-brand drugs raked in $32 billion in 2016, though sales have lost momentum as copies hit the market.

Novartis generics unit Sandoz contends having knock-offs of all three big "anti-TNF" drugs against disorders such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondolitis will raise its portfolio's allure for cash-strapped health care systems.

Novartis, which releases half-year results on Tuesday, is counting on biosimilars helping it kick-start lagging growth starting in 2018.

"We can leverage resources across multiple products when commercializing and can offer disease management solutions based on the full portfolio, rather than just product-specific offerings," Carol Lynch, Sandoz's biosimilars development head, said in an email.

South Korea's Samsung Bioepis has similarly broad aims, with its own Remicade, Enbrel and Humira imitations.

While these drugs seem to be targeting the same patients, experts said disease variation, doctor preference and payer practices in heterogeneous markets may underpin having a so-called multi-drug "portfolio offering".

In Nordic countries, where biosimilar adoption has been rapid, government-set pricing may favor one medicine one year, another the next.

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