Coherus reveals biosimilar launch tactics in battle against Amgen’s Neulasta

After a biosimilar approval for Coherus, Amgen's blockbuster Neulasta now faces two rivals on the market. (Amgen)

Coherus dialed up pressure on Amgen with a recent FDA approval for a Neulasta biosimilar, and now the company has unveiled its bid for a market share steal, using a discounted price and patient and reimbursement services.

Udenyca will carry a list price of $4,175, a 33% discount to Amgen's key drug, executives said on a conference call Thursday. The price is also lower than Neulasta’s average selling price of $4,422.

Coherus’ senior vice president of marketing and market access Jim Hassard said the “price is attractive to payers without diminishing the value proposition of Udenyca.” On Thursday’s call, Hassard detailed the company’s biosim strategy as offering several strengths.

Besides Udenyca’s price, Coherus sees a market advantage in its patient and reimbursement services, not to mention a solid supply to make sure patients get the drug when they need it. The company’s manufacturing means it has plenty “to enter the broad marketplace,” Hassan said. “And again some competitors that have entered the market maybe haven't had that same luxury.” 

The company plans to launch its biosim Jan. 3, execs said.

Neulasta helps cancer patients receiving chemotherapy boost their white blood cell count to fight off infections. Importantly, Coherus’ SVP of commercial analytics Michael Chen pointed out Thursday that treatment is “episodic with a high degree of patient turnover.”

That’s an advantage for the biosimilar over others that have seen limited success in the U.S. market, such as biosimilar versions of Remicade, a drug for autoimmune diseases that patients use for ongoing treatment. Once new patients find success with a particular drug, doctors are reluctant to switch them, and Johnson & Johnson has managed to secure reimbursement deals that are still snaring those new scripts.

For its launch, Coherus will focus on market segments with “pent-up demand and desire to derive true cost savings for their patients,” such as hospitals, SVP of sales Chris Thompson said on the call. That would include hospitals in the 340B program, where drugs are heavily discounted. And as Thompson noted on the call, the largest group purchasing organization representing hospitals, Vizient, applauded the biosimilar approval.

Mylan launched its own Neulasta biosim, Fulphila, this summer and has been focusing on community oncology clinics and hospital-based outpatient clinics rather than hospitals themselves, Chief Commercial Officer Tony Mauro said on a recent conference call. He said the launch has been “surgical” and that there remains a big opportunity for Mylan, even after a second biosimilar entered the market. On the call, Mylan President Rajiv Malik said Mylan's "capacity is exactly as we had planned and as we had anticipated" for the launch.

For Amgen, a second biosimilar means more pressure on its stalwart Neulasta, a top biologic that generated $3.9 billion in the U.S. last year. While the company is facing a growing biosimilar threat, Amgen itself is advancing with biosimilars. It has U.S. approvals for biosims to AbbVie's Humira and Roche's Avastin, though neither have launched due to patent issues.