Teva's Neupogen knockoff faces uphill battle for share

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) has pegged its future on becoming a hybrid drugmaker, with generics and brands working in perfect synergy. That's because it has looked past the huge wave of patent expirations on blockbuster drugs, and concluded that generics growth alone won't be respectable enough. And that's why it bought Cephalon last year.

Now, Teva has U.S. approval for a drug that could itself be considered a generic-brand hybrid. The company's biosimilar version of Amgen's ($AMGN) Neupogen, a white blood cell booster for cancer patients, is certainly a copycat. But unlike small-molecule generics, it was developed like a branded med--with several clinical trials. And to get anywhere in the marketplace, it will have to behave like a brand.

That's because, unlike standard generics, Teva's tbo-filgrastim can't simply be substituted for Neupogen. Doctors will have to prescribe it by name, just as they do branded drugs. And that means Teva must reach out to doctors and persuade them to prescribe its biosim instead of Neupogen.

The Teva drug "will require a launch ramp and extensive marketing efforts by Teva to gain share," RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee said in a research note (as quoted by Reuters).

Teva will have plenty of time to gear up for a marketing campaign. Under a court settlement with Amgen, Teva can't launch its tbo-filgrastim in the U.S. until November 2013. The company has to hope that tbo-filgrastim's U.S. foray will yield better results than its European counterpart. As Reuters points out, Teva already sells its Neupogen version, Tevagrastim, in Europe--and it only has about 5% of the market.

- see the Teva release
- read the Reuters news

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