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Celltrion tackles uptake head on

Posted 13 August 2019

Despite gloomy figures on biosimilar uptake locally, new player Celltrion is not daunted by the challenge as it prepares to launch its first product Truxima in the next few months.  

The company's head of business JAPAC Joo Sik Choi told Pharma in Focus in an interview this morning the local company would not "complain" about the uptake environment.

"In Australia, the awareness about biosimilar quality is not well established, but we are the first mover," he said, referring to Celltrion's position as the first company to launch a biosimilar worldwide.  

"We are the pioneers in this area, so we [will] try to establish a biosimilar-friendly environment in Australia."

Choi came to the company's Sydney offices this week to oversee the new subsidiary, launched in April this year.  

In his opinion, there "was no difference" between the local market and other markets the Korean company was working in.

The company's marketing manager Anthony Boteju discussed some of Celltrion's local plans to tackle uptake, saying it was well aware of the problem but the landscape was "changing rapidly". 

"Biosimilar launches in Australia have been few and far between. But now with major biologics... going off patent, there are more opportunities, and so more biosimilar launches by different suppliers."

Boteju said the team had plenty of activities planned to help boost the launch of Mabthera biosimilar Truxima at the end of the year, including participation in at least 10 medical conferences. 

He also said it would capitalise on its membership with the GBMA to boost education activities. 

"So far our relationship with the GBMA has been good, but we also look forward to working with the GBMA, contributing our insights, suggestions as to where the GBMA needs to take the biosimilar messaging."

The company is the first and only dedicated biosimilar company in the ranks of the generics industry body, with the GBMA creating a new tier of membership for Celltrion. 

When asked how the company would differentiate itself from other biosimilar players, Choi said the company was unique in its sole focus on the products. 

"I think there are three major categoies of players here in the biosimilar business," he said.

"The first are multinational company players [such as] Pfizer, Amgen and Novartis' Sandoz. So they have innovative medicines but at the same time try to expand... to biosimilars.

"The second are Indian and Chinese [generic] players... and there are a lot of challenges in terms of the quality."

But Choi said Celltrion belonged to a third category of "dedicated biosimilar players" which offered "high quality products" and avoided the "confusion" of companies with both innovative and biosimilar products that could waver between being "anti-biosimilar" and "pro-biosimilar". 

Meanwhile, Choi also said Celltrion was different to country rival Samsung Bioepis by having a direct presence in the local market. Samsung distributes it biosimilars through MSD. It is also close to half owned by Biogen. 

"They have a distributor, they have a critical proportion of shares [belonging] to an innovative player (Biogen)... there is some limitation, you know, possible."

Yajun Ma

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