Pfizer is falling short in a competitive market, Johnson & Johnson says as it hits back at Remicade biosimilar suit

Pfizer argues Johnson & Johnson's Remicade contracting is "anticompetitive," but J&J says Pfizer is just coming up short in a tough market.

Arguing that Johnson & Johnson's moves to protect Remicade against biosimilars are triggering wasteful healthcare spending, Pfizer last week sued its Big Pharma peer. Now, taking its case straight to patients and the public, J&J says its exclusive contracts are in fact helping with costs and that Pfizer's Inflectra just can't compete on value.

To defend blockbuster autoimmune med Remicade from new biosim entrants, Johnson & Johnson has tied rebates on varying medical offerings—including Remicade—to the requirement that payers use its branded drug over the new competition. As a result of that strategy and others, the company hasn't lost much Remicade market share since Pfizer launched its discounted biosimilar nearly a year ago. Merck recently launched a second biosim at a 35% discount to the brand. 

Pfizer sued last week, saying that J&J's moves are triggering wasteful healthcare spending and undermining the intent of federal biosim laws. For its part, J&J is now taking the opposite stance, arguing that Pfizer hasn't been able to offer enough value with its product.

"Rather than demonstrating value and working to win the trust of physicians and patients, Pfizer is asking the court to protect it from having to compete," Johnson & Johnson said in a Friday statement.

Responding to that claim, a Pfizer representative told FiercePharma on Tuesday that Remicade's average selling price has grown in recent quarters while Inflectra's has gone down. In this case, the branded drugmaker's "exclusionary anticompetitive contracts prevent patients and payers from the opportunity to benefit from Inflectra and save even more," he added. Pfizer also says that J&J employed misleading language in its statement to confuse some of the issues.

RELATED: With its Remicade biosimilar stymied by the brand, Pfizer sues Johnson & Johnson for 'anticompetitive' dealmaking 

J&J has been prepping for Remicade biosims for some time, with executives repeatedly expressing confidence that the brand can hold up against biosimilar attacks. As the U.S. biosim market takes shape, Pfizer has only generated $40 million with Inflectra in the first half of this year in the States, compared to Remicade's $2.24 billion. The company says things are unlikely to change unless a court intervenes, and that this case may impact how the biosim field unfolds in the U.S.

Last year, J&J's pharma head Joaquin Duato told investors the company's commercial team is ready for the fight against biosims. It’s already an “extremely competitive” market on price, he said at the time, adding that J&J would develop “innovative contracts” to “utilize the full breadth” of its portfolio. 

Aside from contracting moves, J&J has said that patients who are stable on Remicade are "highly unlikely" to switch to biosims, helping protect share for its lead med.

Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from Pfizer.