Switching study gives Celltrion biosim more ammo in Remicade fight

Celltrion is working hard to snatch market share from Merck's ($MRK) Remicade with its biosimilar, Remsima. And now, it's armed with real-world data that could help further that aim.

In 10 real-world studies spanning 600 irritable bowel disease patients in 8 countries, Remsima proved no less safe or effective for patients who switched to the biosim from Remicade, according to the Korean drugmaker. And Celltrion believes that data makes its case for switching more patients to the cheaper therapy.

On top of those results, the company has been "delighted to see a corresponding growth in physician confidence with monoclonal antibody biosimilars, and in willingness to switch to a biosimilar from the originator," CEO Man Hoon Kim said in a statement. "This suggests that more patients will get the chance to benefit from biological therapies, particularly for conditions that require chronic treatment such as IBD."

Merck may not be so pleased. The company has already taken a hit on Remsima's behalf, with fourth-quarter sales of Remicade dropping 29% to $396 million--an 18% slump at constant exchange rates. For all of 2015, Remicade brought in $1.79 billion, down from $2.37 billion the year prior.

Partner Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), which sells Remicade in the U.S., is banking on patients staying put even after the Celltrion drug wins FDA approval. As CEO Alex Gorsky outlined earlier this year, J&J believes 70% of its Remicade patients "have a pretty high satisfaction rate"--which would mean the population likely to make a switch is only in the 30% range.

Or so J&J hopes. The company is already taking a beating thanks to hefty competition to former hep C star Olysio, and a strong dollar has been dragging down sales, too.

- read the release

Special Report: The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013 - Remicade

Read more on