Pfizer filed a suit against J&J on September 20, claiming the rival's contracts with health insurers for blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade is anti-competitive and the move keeps its copy version Inflectra out from insurance coverage.
First approved in 1998, J&J's tumor necrosis factor-inhibiting biologic is used to treat a range of immune-mediated diseases in nearly 500,000 Americans, including for Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and plaque psoriasis and has been hauling in billions for J&J (about $4.8 billion in United States sales in 2016).
The lawsuit centers on competition between Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and Pfizer's biosimilar alternative Inflectra.
"J&J's aggressive measures to counter Pfizer shows its strong willingness for biosimilar market expansion", Meritz Securities analyst Lee Tae-young said. "Despite some coverage by regional and government plans, Inflectra has secured less than 4 percent of total infliximab unit sales in the U.S.as of September 1, 2017", Pfizer contends. In effect, J&J says to insurers, "If you want to receive attractive rebates on Remicade for all your existing Remicade patients"-rebates which, for some insurers, run into the tens of millions of dollars annually-'you must agree to not reimburse for Inflectra, or to do so in the most limited of circumstances, '" the complaint notes".
Young adds, "It's not in the best interest of patients and our healthcare system if originator companies like J&J (NYSE: JNJ) can use their dominant market position to prevent access to lower cost, effective biosimilar medicines in the U.S. Pfizer is committed to challenging practices like those implemented by J&J that block biosimilar options for patients and price competition - through the courts and by working with policymakers and regulators - so that patients have a wide range of treatment options available to them at a competitive price".