UPDATE 1-Teva tests biosimilar version of Roche’s Rituxan

* Teva testing copy of drug in rheumatoid arthritis patients

* Follows biosimilars partnership set up with Lonza in 2009

* Underscores race to make generic copies of biotech drugs

(Adds Lonza comment on aiming for launch in 2014)

LONDON, May 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical
Industries (TEVA.TA: ) is developing a generic version of Roche’s
(ROG.VX: ) blockbuster antibody drug Rituxan, highlighting the
race to produce so-called biosimilar medicines.

Teva is recruiting 60 patients in Germany and Hungary into a
clinical trial comparing Roche’s original product with its copy,
known as TL011, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The study is due for completion in August 2011, according to
a post on clinicaltrials.gov (http://link.reuters.com/neb36k).

A spokesman for Teva’s partner Lonza (LONN.VX: ) said his
company was also involved in the trial, adding the drug was
expected to be launched in the second half of 2014, assuming
positive results in development and approval from regulators.

Rituxan, also known as MabThera, is marketed for treating
non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic
lymphocytic leukemia. Sales last year totalled 6.1 billion Swiss
francs ($5.2 billion).

It is one of the older antibody drugs that generic companies
are now eyeing as a major sales opportunity.

With the global market for branded biologic drugs worth more
than $80 billion a year and roughly $50 billion of that business
set to lose patent protection by 2015 or 2016, biosimilars like
Rituxan are an enticing prospect.

Teva, the world’s largest generic drugmaker, formed a
biosimilars partnership with Swiss contract manufacturer Lonza
in January 2009 and industry analysts said at the time that
Rituxan could be an early target of their alliance.

Teva’s arch-rival Sandoz, the generics unit of Swiss
drugmaker Novartis (NOVN.VX: ), has made biosimilars a top
priority as well.

Within the mainstream pharma sector, Merck & Co (MRK.N: ) has
also set up a biosimilars unit to tap into the opportunity,
although it suffered a setback recently after halting work on a
biosimilar anaemia drug. [ID:nN11265314]

Used to treat complex diseases like cancer and rheumatoid
arthritis, biotech drugs are more expensive and difficult to
make than traditional chemical medicines because they are
derived from living cells.

That means regulators and some doctors may be more wary
about swapping patients from the original branded product.

But the upside is that biosimilars — which can cost $100
million to develop, as against $5 million to $10 million for a
conventional generic chemical drug — will enjoy far higher
margins.

In effect, biosimilars, the first of which are already
available in Europe, are positioned halfway between patented
brand medicines and typical bargain-basement generics.

Stock Market Research

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, with Catherine Bosley in Zurich;
Editing by David Holmes and David Cowell)
($1=1.167 Swiss Franc)

UPDATE 1-Teva tests biosimilar version of Roche’s Rituxan