Regular readers will recall that back in July of 2010, Merck said it would partner with Sinopharm in China — on an HPV vaccine (very likely a “biosimilar” — to the very-pricey US branded Gardasil® vaccine). (Separately, back in November of 2010, Bristol-Myers Squibb inked a partnership with Simcere to jointly develop a new cancer therapy, BMS-817378.)
Just this past week, Merck inked a similar deal with Simcere, China pharma concern — on diabetes and metabolic (blood pressure) medicines — some of which are facing a US patent cliff. The China deal gives Whitehouse Station an easier access path to the vast Chinese market, and allows at least middling profits on its maturing branded drugs. Here is some of the presser on the latest Merck deal:
. . . .This. . . partnership will combine the extensive resources and expertise of a global health care company and a leading Chinese pharmaceutical company in support of Merck and Simcere’s goals. . . . The initial focus of the partnership will be branded pharmaceutical products for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Specifically, in the area of cardiovascular disease, the partnership will offer a combined portfolio of selected medicines from both companies, including Zocor® (simvastatin), Cozaar® (losartan) and Renitec® (enalapril) by Merck/MSD, and Xinta (levamlodipine) and Shuftan (rosuvastatin) by Simcere. In the metabolic disease area, the partnership will work to maximize access in China to sitagliptin, a DPP-IV inhibitor for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is increasingly recognized as a significant public health threat in China. . . .
We will keep an eye on this, but increasing Januvia® and Janumet® penetration in China will very-likely serve New Merck well. To be clear though, it is significant that the presser uses the non-branded chemical name to refer to the diabetes med — sitagliptin — not Januvia, the branded version. That strongly suggests this too will be an “authorized” biosimilar marketing arrangement — and thus not even close to the branded price point.