Roche plots a survival course but sees no big biosimilar threat

Roche CEO Severin Schwan

As far as Roche CEO Severin Schwan is concerned, the European economic crisis will trigger deep cuts in healthcare spending, leaving room for only two types of Big Pharma players: Generic drugmakers with the economies of scale needed to market huge volumes of cheap therapies and innovators who can come up with a new generation of therapies that offer markedly better outcomes for patients.

All others, he says, will perish in the economic storm. "If pressure increases you will have suddenly winners and losers and you have a lot of enterprises that will be squeezed out," he told reporters, according to a story in Reuters.

Schwan, of course, has no intention of seeing Roche squeezed out of anything. Along those lines, the CEO says that a regulatory filing to seek approval of the promising breast cancer drug trastuzumab-DM1 is "imminent" and if regulators go ahead and approve the drug ahead of Phase III data, marketing can begin in early 2011.

One area where Roche doesn't expect much pressure: Biosimilars. Anyone developing new biosimilars will have to mount their own clinical trials and then market it in competition with any biologic already on the market. That leaves the barrier to market entry high, giving biotech drugs a distinct edge compared to the small molecule world.

"It's a different ball game and we expect a much lesser penetration of biosimilars," Schwan.

- here's the story from Reuters