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How Covid-19 rocked the biosimilar market

Posted on: 30 Apr

In April 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to take full effect, the EMA had approved 58 biosimilars . It was a growing market, and the pandemic - and the inevitable economics constraints - actually brought biosimilars front and centre.

Following the 2008 recession, governments turned to biosimilars as a means of saving. Before long, the narrative around generics offering a lower efficacy rate was forgotten, and biosimilars were hailed as the answer to delivering effective healthcare solutions on a tighter budget. Although the market was in a unique position compared to other industries, it still faced many hurdles throughout the pandemic. Read on to hear how Covid-19 rocked the biosimilar market.

A challenge for companies focused on biosimilars

Over the years, several companies have started to distance their operations from the biosimilar market. Just take Merck, who have separated their biosimilars to be produced under the name of a different company. However, that does not mean to say there is lower competition. In fact, there are new companies on the scene, like Coherus Biosciences, which are snapping up newly available market share and establishing themselves as biosimilar-only businesses.

2020 marked the end of many blockbuster biologics patents in the US, such as Truvada, Chantix, Forteo, Ciprodex, and Afinitor. It was set to be a big year for the market, but for those focused on biosimilars, there were some obstacles to face.

Stagnation in the approval of non-Covid therapeutics

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, GlobalData found that 24% of survey respondents believed that ‘patent expiry of biologics’ was a top trend expected to have a positive impact on the pharmaceutical market . This was the most popular response, above M&A mega-deals and the vertical integration of the healthcare system. However, 2020 was the slowest year for approvals in the US market since 2016, with the FDA approving only three biosimilars . Many industry leaders have pointed out that this delay in the approval process has caused businesses to push back their launch dates, thereby flattening market growth.

Delays for products in the pipeline

When drugs lose patent protection, this creates new opportunities for biosimilar companies. A patent will typically last around 20 years from the moment a company files an application. This period gives exclusive rights to the drug inventor, after which competing companies can launch a biosimilar. Though the market was on track for a good year, the pandemic threatened to derail product pipelines. During the height of the outbreak, resources were diverted away from the research and development of new biosimilars and towards the fight against Covid-19 .

Logistical problems

In our report – The impact of biosimilar competition in Europe – we found that in 2020, biosimilar medicines reached a value of €8.4 billion, representing 9% of the total biologics market. But as the virus spread and operations were turned on their head, it soon became clear there would be a disruption to the supply chain. Raw materials could no longer reach their intended destination, and this brought the production of biosimilars to a grinding halt in some cases. But with a Covid-19 vaccine developed and deployed in record-breaking time, the market can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that these operations are steadily returning to normal.

Find your next job with IQVIA

It’s been a challenging year for biosimilar companies and the wider pharmaceutical industry, but there’s never been a better time to search for your next job. At IQVIA, we help our clients bring their biosimilar to market faster by tapping into unparalleled data, technology, advanced analytics, and scientific expertise. If you want to be a part of our mission, browse our e-detailing representative jobs and find out where you can take your biosimilar career with IQVIA. Or, browse all jobs to see what other job opportunities we can offer you.


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