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Expand chart
Adapted from a chart by IQVIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

The drug industry has plenty of tools to fend off the new, cheaper competitors called biosimilars — from lawsuits that prevent them from launching to deals that limit their profits after they launch.

Why it matters: The drug market is increasingly composed of biologics, which are pricier than traditional small-molecule drugs. At the same time, biosimilars — which are comparable to generic biologics — are struggling to break through.

Driving the news: UnitedHealthcare, one of the country's largest insurers, will soon disadvantage Udenyca — a biosimilar manufactured by Coherus to compete against Amgen's Neulasta. That's because Amgen offered United a bigger rebate then Coherus.

But this is just one example of how the drug industry finds ways to keep biosimilars off the market.

  • Pfizer is suing Johnson & Johnson over similar practices. It says J&J has created exclusionary deals with insurers, using rebates as leverage to win preferred coverage of J&J's Remicade over Pfizer's biosimilar version.
  • “To date Pfizer has failed to demonstrate sufficient value to patients, providers, payers and employers,” J&J told Reuters.

Lawsuits filed by biologics manufacturers also create a hurdle for biosimilars — well before they're in any position to negotiate with insurers.

What they're saying: J&J's "strategy could serve as a blueprint for every brand name biologic drug maker seeking to maintain monopoly power and profits indefinitely in the face of competition from a lower-priced biosimilar," the Biosimilars Council wrote in a court filing in support of Pfizer.

Go deeper

2 mins ago - Health

CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday strengthened its previous recommendation for booster shots, saying that everyone 18 and older "should" receive a booster dose.

Why it matters: Last month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky accepted a key advisory committee's recommendation that adults "may" get the shot. The slight, but significant, change comes amid the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

4 hours ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."