Eye on Pharma: Novartis Earnings Grow on Strength of Biosimilars

The Center for Biosimilars Staff

In its third-quarter earnings report, Swiss drug maker Novartis announced that its net sales have risen by 2%, and net income by 10%, compared to the same period last year. The company credited its biosimilars business as a key factor in its growth.

In its third-quarter earnings report, Swiss drug maker Novartis announced that its net sales have risen by 2%, and net income by 10%, compared to the same period last year. The company credited its biosimilars business as a key factor in its growth.

The company’s biopharmaceuticals earned Novartis $292 million during the quarter, a gain of 9%. The company says that its growth in biologics was attributable in part to sales of biosimilar filgrastim (Zarxio) in the United States and the launches of biosimilar rituximab (Rixathon) and etanercept (Erelzi) in the European Union.

Novartis’ CEO, Joe Jimenez, said in an interview following the announcement of the company’s earnings that the market’s response to the launch of Novartis’ biosimilars has been stronger than anticipated. “We’re seeing some of the customers switching whole patient populations over,” said Jimenez. “The reaction is a bit more robust than what we had expected.”

While Jimenez did not divulge how deep a discount the company was providing for its biosimilars, he indicated that Novartis has been selling its rituximab biosimilar, which is approved for all indications of its reference, at more than a 15% discount to the reference rituximab (Rituxan, MabThera).

Novartis’ announcement of its strong third-quarter sales numbers follows less impressive rituximab figures for reference biologic maker, Roche. Last week, Roche reported that its sales of Rituxan/MabThera had slid by 16% due to European biosimilar competition from Novartis as well as from Celltrion, whose rituximab product, Truxima, has also eroded the reference product’s market share.

Sandoz has previously stated that Rixathon represents 1 of 5 major biosimilar products that its Sandoz division has planned for launch in the coming 4 years. In its look toward the future, Novartis highlighted the fact that Rixathon has been accepted for review by the FDA, and that its adalimumab (Humira) biosimilar is under review by the European Medicines Association.