Pfizer ($PFE), deepening its efforts in biosimilars after trading $17 billion for Hospira, is ditching a few redundant assets partnered with South Korean drugmaker Celltrion, paring down its pipeline as it eyes a growing global market.
The company is returning the rights to in-development copies of Roche's ($RHHBY) rheumatoid arthritis treatment Rituxan and breast cancer drug Herceptin. Pfizer already has an in-house Rituxan biosimilar, in Phase III for lymphoma, and a proprietary Herceptin knockoff in late-stage trials.
But Pfizer's not abandoning Celltrion altogether. Thanks to its Hospira acquisition, closed in September, the drugmaker inherited a Celltrion-partnered Remicade biosimilar already on sale in Europe, plus early-stage knockoffs of Amgen's ($AMGN) Neupogen and Neulasta. Under an agreement with European antitrust regulators, Pfizer has promised to sell off the EU rights to a Remicade biosimilar of its own, which is now in Phase III development.
The Hospira deal also brought in Retacrit, a registration-stage take on Amgen's Epogen and Procrit, adding to a Pfizer-developed pipeline that includes takes on AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira and Roche's Avastin.
The soon-to-boom world of biosimilars was a major factor in Pfizer's decision to snap up the oft-troubled Hospira, and the company believes copies of top-selling biologics will grow into a $20 billion market by 2020 as more and more treatments lose patent protection.
Novartis ($NVS), through its Sandoz subsidiary, has led the charge in the U.S., launching the nation's first biosimilar last month with a version of Neupogen. On its heels are Amgen, Merck ($MRK), Baxalta ($BXLT) and a slew of others hoping to offset their own patent losses with biosimilars that snatch revenue from their rivals.
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