Boehringer Ingelheim to lay off staff amid biosimilar challenges

Drug ApprovalBiosimilar
Dive Brief:
Boehringer Ingelheim is laying off staff in response to sluggish adoption of its Humira biosimilar Cyltezo, a company spokesperson confirmed to BioPharma Dive. Stat first reported the news Thursday.
The German company said it will trim its customer-facing teams in favor of a hybrid in-person and virtual sales model by June 30, but didn’t specify how many jobs are affected. Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, have kept Humira on their coverage lists, resulting in cheaper copycats like Cyltezo falling below their “anticipated potential,” the spokesperson said.
Humira, a blockbuster immune disease drug sold by AbbVie, began facing biosimilar competition in the U.S. last year. Launched in July, Cyltezo is one of more than half a dozen Humira biosimilars now available, but holds an advantage due to its “interchangeable” designation, which allows pharmacists to substitute it for Humira.
Dive Insight:
Humira biosimilars, Cyltezo among them, have struggled to make inroads on the market, due in part to moves made by AbbVie to shore up insurance coverage for Humira.
In an email to BioPharma Dive, Boehringer spokesperson Taylor Pepe said that, “due in large part to the complexities of a complicated landscape and several challenges with PBMs keeping Humira on formulary, adoption of Humira biosimilars at scale has not reached its anticipated potential.”
While biosimilar makers didn’t anticipate an immediate erosion of Humira market share, the drug has been able to retain a large chunk of its sales due to rebate deals with insurers. Still, those concessions have meant Humira sales have fallen.
Humira previously cost $7,000 for a four-week supply at list price. Biosimilars arrived on the market with prices as low as 85% of Humira’s wholesale cost.
Biosimilars beyond Humira have struggled, too, amid a complicated web of rebate and discount agreements between drugmakers and insurers.
Boehringer said it is providing resources to impacted colleagues and is “very much committed” to Cyltezo.
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