India's Gujarat state drugmakers speed up biosimilar race

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Drug companies in India's leading industrial state of Gujarat, the base of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are stepping up efforts to crack the domestic market for biosimilars as well as abroad, Business Standard reports.

The newspaper said the biosimilar market in India is expected to grow 30% annually through 2018.

Among firms in Gujarat, Intas Pharma last week launched a domestic biosimilar of ranibizumab, the active ingredient in eye drug Lucentis from Novartis ($NVS) priced at a quarter of the cost of the original, according to Business Standard.

Intas Vice Chairman Binish Chudgar told Business Standard the company has a host of other biosimilar products in its pipeline with Peg GCSF probably its next launch.

But he said cracking regulated markets for biosimilars is not an easy task.

"Our target market is the European Union while cracking the U.S. would take some time," he told Business Standard. "We are aggressive on oncology products, we also give some of our products to third party agents for marketing, like erythroprotein, to increase the reach of the product."

Gujarat-based firms such as Cadila Healthcare and Torrent Pharmaceuticals have also come up with biosimilar products in the last few years. Last year, Cadila launched an Adalimumab biosimilar to be marketed by Zydus Biovation--a new division.

The newspaper said the group has an R&D pipeline of at least 24 biologics, which include biosimilars and also novel biologics that are targeted at infertility, cancer and stroke, among other conditions.

Pankaj Patel, chairman and managing director of Cadila Healthcare, told Business Standard that of the varied candidates, around 14 are biosimilars, and four novel biologics.

Patel added that the company's strategy would be to launch these products in the domestic market first.

Other firms, such as Lupin Pharmaceuticals based in financial hub Mumbai, include plans for a 2017 filing in Japan for etanercept, a biosimilar version of Amgen ($AMGN) Enbrel, in partnership with a Yoshindo unit called YL Biologics.

Lupin said it has 10 biosimilars under development with launches of pegfilgrastim and filgrastim-granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) in India next year possible.

Analysts have also said Lupin is working on peginterferon alfa-2b and rituximab, Roche's ($RHHBY) Rituxan/MabThera.

- here's the story from Business Standard