India’s Biocon Biologics launches biosimilar for AbbVie’s Humira in US

(Reuters) – India’s Biocon Biologics said on Monday it has launched a biosimilar version of AbbVie’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira in the United States.

The launch of the copycat version, branded as Hulio, adds to a list of biosimilars introduced by drugmakers on Monday by Coherus Biosciences and Germany’s Fresenius. Boehringer Ingelheim and Swiss drugmaker Sandoz launched their Humira biosimilars on Saturday.

Biocon Biologics, a unit of Biocon, said Hulio would be available at a list price of 5% below Humira’s current list price. Humira comes at list price of $6,922 per carton. The biosimilar would also be available under another plan at a list price of about 85% below that of Humira.

Unlike pills, which have extremely cheap generic copies, complex, expensive biologic drugs made from living cells cannot be exactly duplicated. Their closest alternatives are called biosimilars.

Amgen launched the first Humira biosimilar for the U.S. in January at 5% and 55% discounts to the branded medicine, depending on the buyer.

Lower discount plans usually are more attractive to pharmacy benefit managers, who act as middlemen between insurers and drugmakers, as they come with more rebates from the pharmaceutical companies.

Although prices usually fall when generic versions of a widely used medication enter the market, manufacturers of Humira biosimilars are likely to keep prices high to compete with one another for leverage with pharmacy benefit managers, experts have said.

AbbVie has forecast a 37% drop in Humira sales in 2023 due to competition. Until recently, it was the world’s biggest-selling non-COVID prescription drug, hitting a record $21.2 billion in sales for 2022.

(Reporting by Raghav Mahobe in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)