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Remicade, a Biotech Blockbuster in Treating a Variety of Immune System Diseases
Remicade is a drug used in treating a variety of immune system diseases, and its active ingredient is produced through biotechnology. Johnson & Johnson reported Remicade sales of $4.6 bn in 2010, and the drug is the best-selling “biologic” in the world. This article examines its long journey from an academic research laboratory to a leading position in the pharmaceutical market.
In 2010, the world’s best-selling biologic drug was Remicade. Since its original US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as a treatment for Crohn’s disease in 1998, global sales have increased at double-digit annualized growth rates. Johnson & Johnson generated more than half of the sales value, which equates to 7.2% of the company’s total 2010 revenues. It also obtained royalty payments from other companies selling Mericade.
Remicade has a history that is typical of a biologic drug. It was discovered in academia, and brought to market by a relatively small company called Centocor Biotech. Johnson & Johnson acquired Centocor soon afterwards.
Remicade is “a pipeline in a product”. Clinical trials subsequent to initial approval have demonstrated its efficacy in a range of immune system-related inflammatory diseases. Each new approval expands its potential market.
The position of Remicade is threatened by substitutes and healthcare cost control. Non-biologic drug treatments may be more convenient or have fewer side-effects. These advantages may recommend them to physicians, who may use Remicade to treat a given patient until the alternatives have been shown to be ineffective. The non-biologics are also generally much cheaper, which will appeal to the private- and public-sector organizations that fund healthcare.
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