Lilly's Lantus biosim arrives to poach already hard-hit Sanofi sales

Lantus
Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim have launched a biosimilar copy of Sanofi insulin blockbuster Lantus.

The day is here: Novartis’ Zarxio and Pfizer’s Inflectra are getting some company on the biosimilars market—and Sanofi’s Lantus is getting some unwanted competition in the basal insulin market, too.

Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim were scheduled to launch Basaglar, a copy of the French drugmaker’s star product, in the U.S. on Thursday, as per an agreement from last September. And with the rollout, they now have a chance at nabbing a piece of Lantus’ €4.02 billion in U.S. sales.

It’s a blow to Sanofi, for which the blockbuster generated 17.2% of aggregate net sales last year. Even pre-Basaglar, though, Lantus hasn’t been performing like it used to—particularly in the U.S., where sales decreased 20.5% between 2014 and 2015. The reasons? Higher discounts and a slowdown in basal insulin market growth, to name a couple.

Payer pressure isn’t going away anytime soon, either. It hit a high point for Sanofi in August, when CVS Health announced that it would be replacing Lantus with Basaglar on its 2017 formulary. To add to the pain, the PBM giant also excluded Sanofi's Lantus follow-up Toujeo, which had been helping to offset Lantus’ declines.

The good news for Sanofi is that, while the formulary placement will definitely help Basaglar, it’s unclear how long it’ll take the new knockoff to really pick up steam. The biosimilars market is still taking shape in the U.S., which until late this year, boasted just one product in Novartis’ Zarxio, a copy of Amgen’s Neupogen.

More are on their way, though—including Amgen’s already-approved version of global best-seller Humira from AbbVie, as well as another Lantus stand-in from Merck.  That med, dubbed MK-1293, matched Lantus in efficacy and safety in trials featuring Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients, the New Jersey drugmaker announced in June.