Merck and Samsung vs. Pfizer and Celltrion versus Johnson & Johnson

John G. Baresky

…The presence of a brand titan pharmaceutical product challenged by two biosimilar partnerships within a high profile therapeutic category in the U.S. market is setting the stage for future biosimilar launch planning as well as fortification strategies of pharmaceutical brand innovators…

Biosimilar Warfare…

Merck & Co ( NYSE: MRK )and partner Samsung Bioepis have introduced their biosimilar version of Johnson & Johnson’s ( NYSE: JNJ ) Remicade in the United States healthcare marketplace. They are not shy in their intent to make a name in the biosimilar sector for themselves. The pricing they have shared is assertively discounted and their product has an array of indications to make it truly competitive. The presence of a brand pharmaceutical product and two biosimilars within a high profile therapeutic category in the U.S. market is setting the stage for future biosimilar launch planning as well as fortification strategies of pharmaceutical brand innovators.

Merck — Samsung’s biosimilar to Remicade, called Renflexis, has launched at a list price of $753.39. This is a 35% discount to J&J’s brand and 20% lower than Pfizer — Celltrion’s Inflectra (priced at a 15% discount to Remicade’s $30,000 annual cost). Renflexis is approved by the FDA for the complete line of indications that Remicade possesses. Based on the cost of the product and its approved indications, Renflexis is clinically and financially competitive.

Managed Care And Market Access…

…MCOs, PBMs, GPOs, specialty pharmacies, large health systems, employee benefit consulting firms and other stakeholders will definitely take notice…

The Merck — Samsung pricing does not include other contracting concessions such as additional discounts, rebates, etc. Provider organizations and payers will be closely assessing pricing in existing contracts and upcoming renewals. Healthcare professionals will be scrutinizing clinical attributes of all 3 products and assessing the best options for patients while monitoring product access via formulary coverage. All of these entities will be seeking ways to leverage the brand and biosimilar manufacturers against each other in the hope of gaining more value through reduced pricing and other contracting advantages.

Battle Lines Drawn…

For now, Johnson & Johnson has good contract positions but is heavily rebating Remicade. Pfizer’s ( NYSE: PFE ) Inflectra has not established firm traction in the United States marketplace and will now have to compete not just against a well-entrenched brand innovator but also a solidly-backed biosimilar swinging for market share and sales. Its 15% discount is likely not nearly enough to dissuade the marketplace to widely adopt it. Merck — Samsung’s launch strategy pricing is assertive and meaningful to managed care and other payer stakeholders.

Looking ahead, the biosimilar market sector is going to grow in size and competitiveness

The success and shortcomings of each of the 3 competing entities and their respective strategies will be closely monitored. As additional biosimilars are launched, brand and biosimilar manufacturers will be using the Remicade / Inflectra / Renflexis scenarios to optimally position their products with clinicians, patients and managed care. It serves as another example of how the U.S. healthcare market quickly pivots based on innovation, competition and the demand for more cost-effective outcomes.

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About me

Hi, my name is John Baresky ( pronounced “ buh — ress — key “) and I have over 25 years of experience in healthcare.

Throughout my career, I have been writing about healthcare while developing and sharing important information with physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians plus consumers, patients, healthcare business professionals, investors and other stakeholders.​​

Healthcare is a vast industry. I organize its clinical, business, academic, technical and consumer topics into precise messages and stories that are easily understood and immediately useful. The content I write resonates across audiences with objective accuracy and clarity.

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