Pfizer Begins Marketing Biosimilar Insulin Products in Partnership with Biocon in India
By Adam Brown
In October 2010, Biocon, an Indian pharmaceutical company, and Pfizer partnered to develop and market biosimilar insulin analogs (see NewNowNext in diaTribe #26). A biosimilar is a “generic” version of a drug that is made via a biological process (for example, a strain of bacteria is used to make Sanofi’s Lantus [insulin glargine]). This past month, Biocon announced an important milestone in the agreement: Pfizer will begin marketing biosimilar versions of Lantus and regular human insulin in India.
While this may not seem important for US consumers, it’s a sign of things to come, as the patents for Lantus, Novolog, and Humalog all expire around 2015 in the US. Once these patents are up, companies like Biocon and Pfizer would be able to sell biosimilar insulins in the US if they are approved by the FDA. That’s a big if – we do note that the FDA has not yet established a clear regulatory pathway for biosimilar products, although the agency does appear eager to make this possible. The main advantage of biosimilar insulin will be its lower cost. As an example, Biocon’s insulin glargine product currently sells at a 40% discount to Lantus in India. We’re certainly eager to hear further details about this partnership, especially as 2015 approaches. According to a recent dQ&A survey (thank you to all who participated!), a majority of people with diabetes would “definitely” or “certainly” try biosimilar insulin, although most wanted it verified that it really was “the same” as the current insulin they used. Interesting days ahead on this front… --AB