September 22, 2010 / 9:20 AM / 9 years ago

Teva biosimilar takes wider aim at Roche's Rituxan

* Teva expands testing into non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

* Study of biosimilar in arthritis already under way

* Teva working on biosimilars with Lonza

LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA) is taking wider aim at Roche’s ROG.VX blockbuster antibody drug Rituxan by launching a second clinical trial using a copy of the drug to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Teva already has a study under way comparing Roche’s original product with its copy, known as TL011, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The new study takes the generic drugmaker into Rituxan’s core market of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

The move highlights the race to produce so-called biosimilar copies of complex biotechnology medicines such as Rituxan, which is also known as MabThera, as their patents expire.

Teva plans to recruit 200 patients into the new clinical trial in Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine, according to a posting on the clinicaltrials.gov website (link.reuters.com/hyp84p).

The study, which is not yet recruting participants, is scheduled for completion in December 2012.

Rituxan is marketed for treating NHL — a type of blood cancer — as well as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Sales last year totalled 6.1 billion Swiss francs ($6.1 billion).

It is one of the older antibody drugs that generic companies are now eyeing as a major sales opportunity.

With the global market for branded biologic drugs worth more than $80 billion a year and roughly $50 billion of that business set to lose patent protection by 2015 or 2016, biosimilars like Rituxan are a enticing prospect.

Teva, the world’s largest generic drugmaker, formed a biosimilars partnership with Swiss contract manufacturer Lonza LONN.VX in January 2009 and industry analysts predicted at the time that Rituxan would be an early target of their alliance. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mike Nesbit) ($1=.9976 Swiss Francs)

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