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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

Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.

Inside Patch's new local newsletter platform

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Patch, the hyperlocal (and profitable) local digital news company, has built a new software platform called "Patch Labs" that lets local news reporters publish their own newsletters and websites, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: It follows a growing trend of journalists going solo via newsletters at the national level.

Scoop: Politico stars plot new Playbook

Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Three of Politico’s biggest reporting stars plan to launch a competitor to the company’s Politico Playbook franchise, sources tell me. 

Why it matters:  Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan will launch a daily newsletter in 2021 as a stand-alone company, the sources say. In effect, they will be competing against the Playbook franchise they helped create and grow.