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Lilly and Boehringer launch Lantus biosimilar in UK

Competition in the insulin drug market begins to heat up
Eli Lilly HQ

Sanofi is facing further competition to its big-selling insulin drug Lantus in the UK, with Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim launching a biosimilar version this week.

The biosimilar - called Abasaglar - is available as a 100 units/mL solution for injection in a cartridge or pen injector, with a list price of £35.28 for a five pack in each case. That compares with a price of £41.50 for five Lantus cartridges, according to a Lilly spokeswoman, and is a 15% discount.

Lantus (insulin glargine) is the top-selling basal insulin in the world but competition from biosimilars and newer brands has started to eat into sales, which fell more than 5% to €3.3bn in the first six months of the year.

Lilly and Boehringer's biosimilar was approved in Europe last September and introduced in some Eastern Europe markets earlier this year - including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Estonia where pricing has also been set at around a 15%-20% discount to Sanofi's brand.

However, the UK launch of Abasaglar - which follows its approval last September - marks the first competition to Lantus in a major EU pharma market.

The Lilly spokeswoman told PMLive the launch of the biosimilar will "help expand available therapeutic options to address individual patient needs and should provide additional value beyond cost savings."

"The first priority for healthcare companies today is to match the medicine to the specific need in a patient's treatment journey," she added.

"This is where our expertise counts, helping more people to manage diabetes effectively in the UK through access to treatments that add value."

For Sanofi, the increased competition to Lantus increases the urgency of its efforts to switch patients to Toujeo, a longer-acting version of insulin glargine which was approved in April has just been launched in the UK at the same price per day as Lantus.

While still early days, the French pharma major says switching to Toujeo is gaining momentum thanks to a strong label claim versus Lantus.

Lantus is also being squeezed by Novo Nordisk's rival basal insulin Levemir (insulin detemir) which has been growing strongly with sales approaching $2.5bn last year, while Merck & Co and Samsung Bioepis are also working on an insulin glargine biosimilar which is in late-stage development.

Article by
Phil Taylor

26th August 2015

From: Sales

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