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...
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