Novartis' Sandoz strikes AbbVie's popular eye pressure drug with generic launch

Novartis’ Sandoz is expanding its eye drug offerings, this time targeting a popular ocular hypertension med from AbbVie’s Allergan.

Sandoz has launched in the U.S. a generic version of AbbVie’s Combigan, a combo eye drop used to treat elevated eye pressure. As the most-dispensed branded combo glaucoma medication, the originator reeled in $373 million in U.S. sales last year.

Sandoz is now offering its copycat in three dosing strengths at a 10% discount off the originator’s wholesale acquisition cost, a company spokesperson told Fierce Pharma.

The Sandoz version isn’t the first generic to Combigan. That title belongs to Apotex’s authorized generic version, launched in January before all patents around the drug expired.

Sandoz touts itself as the largest generic ophthalmic drugmaker in the U.S., citing an IQVIA report. The Novartis unit sells 36 product families for a range of eye diseases, including copycats to Timoptic and Alphagan P, the two components used in Combigan.

As pricing pressure on generics intensified in the U.S., Novartis recently rewired Sandoz to have autonomy within the larger Swiss pharma group. The company has also launched a strategic review to decide whether the generics franchise should be spun off.

Sandoz has attracted buyout interest, but Novartis is still evaluating its options in a process that could last into the latter half of 2022.

The Novartis unit previously expressed an intention to focus on biosimilars and complex generics, which are hard to manufacture. But it got hit off track thanks to an antitrust review of a U.S.-focused transaction with Aurobindo Pharma.

Despite uncertainty over its future, Sandoz continues to roll out new products. In February, Sandoz launched its generic of Bristol Myers Squibb’s megablockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Revlimid in 19 European countries. The Novartis outfit even signed a deal last month to acquire British drug delivery device developer Coalesce Product Development, adding on to its complex generics capabilities in respiratory diseases.

Still, Sandoz’s sales declined in both Europe and the U.S. in 2021 no thanks to pricing pressures. Worldwide, the unit’s 2021 sales dropped 2% at constant currencies to $9.6 billion.

For 2022, Novartis expects Sandoz’s sales to be “broadly in line” with 2021. The unit won’t see many significant launches, Sandoz chief Richard Saynor said on an investor call in February. The company expects to start seeing some growth in the next two years as its biosimilar pipeline bears fruit and as the U.S. generics pricing dynamics stabilize, he added.