Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Health

Boehringer launches 81% discounted biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira

By Mariam Sunny and Patrick Wingrove

(Reuters) -Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim on Monday launched an unbranded version of its biosimilar of AbbVie’s Humira with a list price 81% cheaper than the blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug.

The company in July launched a branded biosimilar, Cyltezo, priced at a 5% discount to Humira’s current list price of $6,922 per month. Boehringer’s close-copies of Humira are the only ones that can be substituted for the original without consulting the prescriber after being designated as interchangeable by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Eight Humira biosimilars from companies including Novartis unit Sandoz and Amgen were launched in the U.S. this year. Several of those companies are also seeking interchangeability status with the FDA to better compete with Humira and Cyltezo.

Until recently, Humira was the world’s biggest-selling prescription drug. It had sales of $21.2 billion in 2022.

Unlike easy to manufacture pills that can be copied and sold as generics at a huge discount once patents lapse, complex biologic medicines made from living cells cannot be exactly duplicated. Their close alternatives are called biosimilars.

Boehringer executive Stephen Pagnotta said the company wanted to make a lower-cost version of Cyltezo available to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) looking to add cheaper Humira biosimilars on their formulary, and for healthcare systems that act as both insurer and provider and typically do not seek after-market discounts.

“We felt the dual pricing approach could really help with payers and PBMs to ensure that biosimilars are available to as many patients as possible,” he said.

Pagnotta said Boehringer was in negotiations with PBMs to put the unbranded version on their lists of covered medicines over the coming months.

UnitedHealth Group’s Optum RX, one of the largest U.S. PBMs, said it has already committed to covering the lower-cost version of Cyltezo on its formulary.

Sandoz and Amgen also launched Humira biosimilars with two pricing tiers. Sandoz’s Hyrimoz is sold at a 5% discount to Humira’s price, while its unbranded version carries an 81% discount.

Healthcare experts have said the heavily discounted versions of Humira may not be made widely available because they are unlikely to appeal to PBMs like CVS Health’s Caremark, Cigna Group’s Express Scripts, and Optum RX, which together control 80% of the prescription drug market.

PBMs have come under increasing scrutiny for taking some of their fees as a percentage of the discounts they negotiate for drugs they cover, which some lawmakers have said can be an incentive for favoring higher-priced medicines in their negotiations.

(Reporting by Mariam Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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