Merck KGaA could bail on biosims with unit sale: Reuters

Merck kgaa

Biosimilars seem to be all the rage these days--but one pharma player may want out.

Merck KGaA is shopping its biosims unit, sources tell Reuters, with the German drugmaker bringing on JPMorgan Chase & Co. to tab potential buyers for the business. Long-term sales potential could put the unit’s value at as much as $1 billion, they said.

The reason Merck may be willing to give that up? Tough competition from its Big Pharma peers. Take the company’s advanced candidate, a knockoff of AbbVie’s globe-leading Humira: The behemoth med already has one FDA-approved challenger from Amgen in Amjevita, and just last week, fellow German company Boehringer Ingelheim announced its own version had matched the branded med in a Phase III study.

Merck boasts several early-stage compounds, though if it hangs around in the business, it’ll have to go up against the likes of established players Novartis and Pfizer, each of which already have at least one approval to speak for.

It’s no surprise the market feels crowded at the moment. Hot sellers such as Humira and fellow anti-inflammatory meds--including Amgen’s Enbrel and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade, which already have approved copies--make the most attractive targets to drugmakers looking to cash in on a piece of their blockbuster sales.

And the field, still new in the U.S., is just beginning to heat up. While there’s still just one biosim on the market--Novartis’ Zarxio, a copy of Amgen’s Neupogen--Pfizer recently announced that it’s gearing up to launch its Remicade copy next month, and the FDA recently doled out approvals to Novartis for its biosimilar Enbrel and to Amgen for Amjevita.

If Merck does step away from biosimilars, it’ll put even more pressure on the company’s new products to generate the sales numbers the company recently announced as targets. The company sees itself churning out sales of €4 billion with new products by 2022, using both already approved and current pipeline products to do it.

Luckily for Merck, it’s also playing in the red-hot immuno-oncology field. It’s in the process of prepping a regulatory submission for skin cancer treatment avelumab, and it intends to hand over the application this year. 

- get more from Reuters

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