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For the first time, a pricey biologic now has more than one lower-cost biosimilar to fend off, a development that should usher in long-awaited savings for the overburdened U.S. health care system.

On Monday, Merck and Samsung Bioepis launched their biosimilar version of Remicade, a blockbuster treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, among other ailments. The launch was sooner than Wall Street expected, but after months of anticipation, we finally know the pricing — a 35 percent discount to the brand-name biologic, which is marketed in the U.S. by Johnson & Johnson.


A biosimilar, you may recall, is a nearly identical variant of a biologic and is expected to provide the same result in patients, which means Merck and Samsung Bioepis have the potential to eat into Remicade sales, which totaled $4.5 billion in the U.S. last year. The question, though, is the extent to which they actually do so. After all, Pfizer last fall introduced its own biosimilar version of Remicade, which is called Inflectra, but sales have been negligible.

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