Big Pharma vs Big Pharma in court battles over biosimilar drugs

Sun Oct 2, 2016 5:00am EDT
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* Drugmakers protect own medicines while challenging rivals

* Drugmakers' last resort to wring exclusivity from blockbusters

* Novartis CEO predicts biosimilar discounts of up to 75 pct

By John Miller

ZURICH, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The line dividing makers of brand-name drugs and copycat medicines is blurring as companies known for innovative treatments queue up to peddle copies of rivals' complex biological medicines.

These drugmakers are now increasingly straddling both sides of the courtroom, too, protecting their high-price products from biosimilars - biopharmaceutical drugs with the treatment properties of medicines they seek to mimic - while simultaneously challenging rivals' patent claims.

Biologics, manufactured in living cells, then extracted and purified, are more complex than traditional medicines and cannot be copied with precision, and so their knock-off versions are called biosimilars instead of generics.

The allure of biosimilars is clear, with insurers and other payers counting on the steep discounts. U.S. pharmacy benefit managers are already trimming brand-name drugs from their rosters. {nL2N1BY0AZ]

With Novartis Chief Executive Joe Jimenez predicting biosimilar discounts of up to 75 percent, in part based on developments in Europe, makers of innovative drugs are fighting tooth and nail to protect their higher-priced products for as long as possible. [   Continued...