Samsung Bioepis and other biosimilar developers are on alert as the U.S. biotech company AbbVie has cut down the price of Humira in Europe by 80%.
Humira, an autoimmune disease treatment, is the top-selling drug in the global market, with global sales reaching 20 trillion won (US$18 billion) last year and sales in Europe alone amounting to 5 trillion won (US$4.5 billion).
According to reports from major foreign media outlets on Nov. 7, the bid price AbbVie presented to Norway's national pharmaceutical bidding for Humira was, to the surprise of many, 80 percent lower than that of the original drug.
Last month, Samsung Bioepis, Amgen, SanDos, and Mylon have concluded patent negotiations with AbbVie to launch their biosimilars to Humira in Europe. However, the global biotechnology industry is shocked by AbbVie’s drastic cut in its Humira price.
Samsung Bioepis released "Imraldi," a biosimilar to Humira, in Europe. Imraldi is an ambitious product developed to target the Humira market. While Humira requires four steps to be administered to the patient, Imraldi requires only two steps. This has made it one of the most powerful Humira alternatives in the world.
A Samsung Bioepis official said, "The North European countries take up only 5% of the total European drug market, so we do not think that they will have any impact at the moment. However, the situation will be different if AbbVie drastically lowers the price of Humira in the Big Five markets, including UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy."
The biotechnology industry is concerned as this would lead to a price war in the global drug market. Biosimilar companies have developed products at a great deal of cost. But if big pharmaceutical firms that developed original drugs cut down their prices drastically, it could lead to so-called "chicken games" that do not guarantee profitability for biosimilar producers. Some worry that in the worst case, the whole global biosimilar market, which has just begun to grow, could face a crisis.