Biosimilars: Creating new vistas of opportunities for Indian Bio Pharmaceutical players in the global market.

Biosimilar or follow-on biologic drugs market is fast evolving across the world with varying degree of pace and stages of developments. The global market for Bio-pharmaceuticals was around US$ 120 billion in 2008, as reported by IMS. However, total turnover of Biosimilar drugs in the regulated markets during the same period was just US$ 60 million.

Currently about 25% of New Molecular Entities (NMEs) under development are of biotech origin. Indian pharmaceutical majors like Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), Reliance Life Science, Shantha Biotech, Ranbaxy, Biocon, Wockhardt and Glenmark have made good investments in biotech drugs manufacturing facilities keeping an eye on the emerging opportunities with Biosimilar drugs in the developed markets of the world.

International Scenario:

Internationally most known companies in the Biosimilar drugs space are Teva, Stada, Hospira and Sandoz.

The first R&D focused global pharmaceutical company that expressed interest in this space is Merck & Co. In December 2008 Merck announced creation of ‘Merck Bio Venture’ for this purpose with an investment commitment of around US$ 1.5 billion by 2015.

Other large research based global innovator pharmaceutical companies, which so far have expressed interest in the field of Biosimilar drugs are Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and Eli Lilly.

Future market Potential:

IMS Health, July 2009 reports that only in the US from 2009 to 2013 about 8 major biologic products like for example, Enbrel (Amgen/J&J), Lovenox (Sanofi-Aventis), Zoladex (AstraZeneca), Mabthera (Roche), Humalog (Eli Lilly) and Novorapid (Novo Nordisk) are expected to go off patent. The sum total of revenue from these drugs will be over U.S$ 15 billion.

This throws open immense opportunities for the Indian companies working on Biosimilar drug development initiatives.

Regulatory pathway for Biosimilar drugs:

Currently EU is the largest Biosimilar market in the world. Immense healthcare cost containment pressure together with a large number of high value biologics going off patent during next five years, especially in the developed western markets like US and EU, are creating a new vista of opportunities in this field to the potential players.

Regulatory pathway for Biosimilar drugs exists in the European Union (EU) since 2005. In the USA President Barak Obama administration has already expressed its clear intention to have similar pathway established in the country through the US-FDA, which is expected to come by 2010.

Steps taken by the Indian pharmaceutical companies towards this direction:

Biosimilar version of Rituxan (Rituximab) of Roche used in the treatment of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has already been developed by DRL in India. Last year Rituxan clocked a turnover of over US$ 2 billion. DRL also has developed filgastrim of Amgen, which enhances production of white blood-cell by the body, and markets the product as Grafeel in India. Similarly Ranbaxy has collaborated with Zenotech Laboratories to manufacture G-CSF. Meanwhile Biocon of Bangalore has commenced clinical trial of Insugen for the regulated markets like EU.

On the other hand Glenmark is planning to come out with its first biotech product by 2010 from its biological research establishment located in Switzerland.

Within Biopharmaceuticals the focus is on Oncology:

Within Biopharmaceuticals many of these domestic Indian pharmaceutical companies are targeting Oncology disease area, which is estimated to be the largest segment with a value turnover of over US$ 55 billion by 2010 growing over 17%. As per recent reports about 8 million deaths take place all over the world per year due to cancer. May be for this reason the research pipeline of NMEs is dominated by oncology with global pharmaceutical majors’ sharp R&D focus and research spend on this particular therapy area. About 50 NMEs for the treatment of cancer are expected to be launched in the global markets by 2015.

Indian market for oncology products:

Current size of the Indian oncology market is around US$ 18.6 million, which is expected to be over US$ 50 million by the end of 2010; the main reason being all these are and will be very expensive products. Biocon has just launched its monoclonal antibody based drug BIOMAb-EGFR for treating solid tumours with an eye to introduce this product in the western markets, as soon as they can get regulatory approval from these countries. Similarly, Ranbaxy with its strategic collaboration with Zenotech Laboratories is planning to market oncology products in various markets of the world like Brazil, Mexico, CIS and Russia.


As the R&D based global innovator companies are now expanding into the Biosimilar space, many Indian domestic pharmaceutical companies are also poised to leverage their R&D initiatives on Biosimilars drugs development to fully encash the emerging global opportunities in this space. It is quite prudent for the Indian players to focus on the Oncology therapy area, as it is now the fastest growing segment in the global pharmaceutical industry.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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