Actavis CEO: Biosims market will be tough to crack

Actavis CEO Claudio Albrecht was full of sound bites when he talked up the company's third-quarter results. Of course he touted its fast sales growth, saying Actavis is "right on track" to 13% sales growth, to about $2.6 billion for the year, as it speeds toward a merger with U.S.-based Watson Pharmaceuticals ($WPI).

But in an interview with Reuters, Albrecht also elucidated his theories about the biosimilars market, which Watson hopes to penetrate in a big way. To his mind, it will take time for generics makers like Watson and Actavis to get up to speed on biosims. Branded drugmakers will keep their edge in biologics for years to come, he figures, both in on-patent products and biosimilar meds.

And that's not just because developing them will be much more complicated, costly and time-consuming than generics makers are used to. It's also because of Big Pharma's vaunted marketing power. Generics makers aren't adept at promoting their products to doctors because they focus their efforts on insurers and pharmacies. They don't have big sales forces ready to pound the pavement on their behalf. Plus, pushing biosimilars will pose its own particular challenges, because they're "similar" rather than copies.

"Biosimilars will have to be advertised and explained. That would be something relatively new to the generics industry," Albrecht told Reuters. "We will have to learn again to generate prescriptions."

The good news for generics makers? Once the biosimilars path is well worn, the market will turn on efficiency. Cutting production and logistics costs will be most important--and that's where big generics companies excel.

- read the Reuters coverage
- get more from The Wall Street Journal

Special Report: Watson Pharmaceuticals - Top 11 Fastest-Growing Generics Companies