Merck bets on generic biologics

Merck is planning to sell generic copies of blockbuster biotech drugs, the drug maker announced today (Dec. 9) at the annual business briefing at its New Jersey headquarters. Through the newly announced Merck BioVentures division, the company is setting its sights on biotech copycats, which still require their own clinical trials and cost millions to develop. As a result, these drugs are generally priced only marginally lower than branded versions and can still be a lucrative venture. The noti

Elie Dolgin
Dec 8, 2008
Merck is planning to sell generic copies of blockbuster biotech drugs, the drug maker announced today (Dec. 9) at the annual business briefing at its New Jersey headquarters. Through the newly announced Merck BioVentures division, the company is setting its sights on biotech copycats, which still require their own clinical trials and cost millions to develop. As a result, these drugs are generally priced only marginally lower than branded versions and can still be a lucrative venture. The notion of follow-on or generic biologics is controversial, however. Many critics argue that, unlike small-molecule based drugs, biologics are like snowflakes -- no two products are alike. Thus, there can be no true "generic." By pushing into generic biotech medicines, Merck's new unit will go up against other pharma giants, including Novartis and Pfizer, and generic leader Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, which are also looking to enter the follow-on biologics field. Merck's first...
New Jersey headquarters. Through the newly announced Merck BioVentures division, the company is setting its sights on biotech copycats, which still require their own clinical trials and cost millions to develop. As a result, these drugs are generally priced only marginally lower than branded versions and can still be a lucrative venture. The notion of follow-on or generic biologics is controversial, however. Many critics argue that, unlike small-molecule based drugs, biologics are like snowflakes -- no two products are alike. Thus, there can be no true "generic." By pushing into generic biotech medicines, Merck's new unit will go up against other pharma giants, including Novartis and Pfizer, and generic leader Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, which are also looking to enter the follow-on biologics field. Merck's first copycat product is an anti-anemia drug that is similar but not identical to Amgen's Aranesp. Merck said it plans to launch the drug -- which is currently in clinical development -- in 2012. Such generic biologics, however, are not yet allowed in the US, although the topic is expected to be a hot issue in Congress next year as President-elect Barack Obama seeks to cut health-care costs. "Next year will continue to be a period of fundamental transformation that establishes Merck as a different competitor for the next decade," said Merck CEO Richard Clark at the meeting, according to__ linkurl:Reuters.;http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gR4NgsFBpSWnxj1-Y2qwkQgXzPTwD94V7UV00
**Related stories:__***linkurl:Merck to cut jobs;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55103/
[22nd October 2008]*linkurl:Generic drugs;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15551/
[20th June 2005]*linkurl:FDA caution tempers race for generic biologics;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14194/
[20th October 2003]

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