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Enbrel (etanercept), Biosimilar innovator drug companies scrambling to copy



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Enbrel (etanercept)

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Biosimilars are protein products that are sufficiently similar to a biopharmaceutical already approved by a regulatory agency. Several biotechnology companies and generic drug manufacturers in Asia and Europe are developing biosimilars of tumor necrosis factor inhibitors and rituximab. A biosimilar etanercept is already being marketed in Colombia and China. In the US, several natural source products and recombinant proteins have been approved as generic drugs under Section 505(b)(2) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. However, because the complexity of large biopharmaceuticals makes it difficult to demonstrate that a biosimilar is structurally identical to an already approved biopharmaceutical, this Act does not apply to biosimilars of large biopharmaceuticals. Section 7002 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which is referred to as the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, amends Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act to create an abbreviated pathway that permits a biosimilar to be evaluated by comparing it with only a single reference biological product.

Amgen announced the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 8,063,182 related to Enbrel (etanercept).owned by Hoffmann-la roche and licensed to Amgen (exp2028) VIA immunex

A biosimilar etanercept, manufactured in China by CP Guojian Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Shanghai), is already being marketed in China as Yisaipu [3] and in Colombia as Etanar [4]. Several biotechnology companies in Asia are also developing biosimilar versions of tumor necrosis factor inhibitors. Protalix Biotherapeutics, Inc. (Carmiel, Israel) is developing a biosimilar etanercept that is expressed in plant cells [5]. Mycenax Biotech (Taiwan) has completed early-phase clinical trials of a biosimilar etanercept in Southeast Asia: a phase I trial among 24 healthy subjects in South Korea and a phase I/II trial that enrolled 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis in Taiwan [6]. Avesthagen (Bangalore, India) has received a patent from the Indian patent office for a biosimilar etanercept [7]. In South Korea, both Celltrion (Yeonsu-gu Incheon City) and Aprogen (Daejeon) are developing a biosimilar of infliximab [8] and LG Life Sciences (Seoul) is developing biosimilars of both etanercept and infliximab to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases [9].

Drug developers:

  • Avesthagen: Avent™ in clinical studies

read this doc


  • BioXpress Therapeutics: Biosimilar in active development

biosimilar bioxpress cancer inflammation


  • Cipla:Etacept,  Launches biosimilar in India on April 17, at a price of Rs. 6,150 ($113.43), 30% less than the innovator product.

  • read this



  • LG Life Sciences: LBEC0101 completed Phase I trial in South Korea


  • Mycenax Biotech: TuNEX in Phase III clinical trials in Japan and South Korea


  • Protalix Biotherapeutics: PRX-106 in preclinical studies

Protalix Biotherapeutics


  • Shanghai CP Goujian Pharmaceutical: Etanar®, marketed in Colombia; Yisaipu, marketed in China



Recently discontinued effort: Merck & Co. and Hanwha Chemical: Hanwha disclosed December 18, 2012, that Merck terminated agreement to develop and manufacture the biosimilar MK-8953, now called HD203, as well as market it in all countries except South Korea and Turkey, an up to $720 million deal signed June 2011.1

Nature and indication: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker for rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) in patients aged two years or older; psoriatic arthritis; ankylosing spondylitis; and plaque psoriasis

2012 sales: $7.963 billion (includes $4.236 billion Amgen + $3.737 billion Pfizer). Amgen markets Enbrel in U.S. and Canada under an agreement with Pfizer set to expire October 31, 2013

Patent status: Patents set to expire in EU in 2015; in U.S., 2019, 2023, 2028, and 2029

Etanercept is a fusion protein produced by recombinant DNA, which fuses a soluble human TNF receptor with an IgG1 antibody. This modified protein works by blocking TNF activity, thereby reducing their ability to cause an inflammatory response as well as severe, chronic pain and discomfort to patients. The fusion protein is protected by five different molecule Key patent families (Fig 2) and are all considered to be a constraint to generic entry until expiry. Although the patent families are owned by different patentees, Amgen have entered into licensing agreements with all parties allowing them sole distributing and marketing rights of Enbrel®.

see details of etanercept


ATC (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification)


CAS registry number (Chemical Abstracts Service)


Chemical Formula


Molecular Weight


Therapeutic Categories


Disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, DMARD

Biological response modifier, BRM

Anti-inflammatory agent

Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) inhibitor

Chemical Name

Dimeric fusion protein consisting of the extracellular ligand-binding portion of the human 75 kilodalton (p75) tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) linked to the Fc portion of human IgG1

is made from the combination of two naturally occurring soluble human 75-kilodalton TNF receptors linked to an Fc portion of an IgG1. The effect is an artificially engineered dimeric fusion protein.

Sandoz launches Phase III clinical trial for biosimilar etanercept
Trial expected to support registration in the U.S. and European Union
•    Sandoz continues to advance biosimilar pipeline with seven Phase III trials across five molecules
•    Global program underscores Sandoz’s leadership in biosimilarsHolzkirchen, Germany, June 24, 2013 – Sandoz, the global leader in biosimilars, announced it has initiated a major Phase III clinical trial with its biosimilar version of etanercept (Amgen’s Enbrel®).
Etanercept was the first biologic approved in the US for the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it was then later approved by the FDA for other forms of arthritis and psoriasis. Patents in families 1992-10-08 and 1999-04-19 protect the aforementioned indications, as well as the use of Etanercept as adjunctive therapy with Methotrexate for RA. Patents in the family protecting the market authorised indications are considered to constrain biosimilar entry for the indicated use, however it would be possible for generic manufacturers to ‘carve out’ market authorised indications thus circumventing these constraining patents prior to expiry.

Etanercept (trade name Enbrel) is a biopharmaceutical that treats autoimmune diseases by interfering with tumor necrosis factor (TNF; a soluble inflammatory cytokine) by acting as a TNF inhibitor. It has U.S. F.D.A. approval to treat rheumatoid, juvenile rheumatoid andpsoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis. TNF-alpha is the “master regulator” of the inflammatory (immune) response in many organ systems. Autoimmune diseases are caused by an overactive immune response. Etanercept has the potential to treat these diseases by inhibiting TNF-alpha.
Etanercept is a fusion protein produced by recombinant DNA. It fuses the TNF receptor to the constant end of the IgG1 antibody. First, the developers isolated the DNA sequence that codes the human gene for soluble TNF receptor 2, which is a receptor that binds to tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Second, they isolated the DNA sequence that codes the human gene for the Fc end of immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1). Third, they linked the DNA for TNF receptor 2 to the DNA for IgG1 Fc. Finally, they expressed the linked DNA to produce a protein that links the protein for TNF receptor 2 to the protein for IgG1 Fc.The prototypic fusion protein was first synthesized and shown to be highly active and unusually stable as a modality for blockade of TNF in vivo in the early 1990s by Bruce A. Beutler, an academic researcher then at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and his colleagues.[2][3][4] These investigators also patented the protein, selling all rights to its use to Immunex, a biotechnology company that was acquired by Amgen in 2002.It is a large molecule, with a molecular weight of 150 kDa., that binds to TNFα and decreases its role in disorders involving excess inflammation in humans and other animals, including autoimmune diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and, potentially, in a variety of other disorders mediated by excess TNFα.In North America, etanercept is co-marketed by Amgen and Pfizer under the trade name Enbrel in two separate formulations, one in powder form, the other as a pre-mixed liquid. Wyeth is the sole marketer of Enbrel outside North America excluding Japan whereTakeda Pharmaceuticals markets the drug.Etanercept is an example of a protein-based drug created using the tools of biotechnologyand conceived through an understanding afforded by modern cell biology.

Figure 2: Molecule Key Patents landscape

International Market

Patents protecting the various technologies of the Etanercept molecule (Fig. 2) across all five families have now expired in Europe, Canada and Australia. In Europe, SPCs and paediatric extensions were granted based on the EP0418014 (1989-09-05) and EP0939121 (1989-09-12) however the last of the paediatric extensions expired in early August, 2015. Finland has been granted a national patent disclosing the Etanercept sequence in the family with priority US40324189A (1989-09-05), which would constrain generic entry until April, 2020. Cyprus has also received a five year patent extension on a national patent set to expire in mid-2016 and would be a constraint for biosimilars entering the market there.

Although the Etanercept molecule is no longer protected in the European, Canadian or Australian markets, no biosimilar has been approved in these major markets suggesting the difficulty of developing a biosimilar which complies with the stringent regulatory pathways in place. Having said that, Merck and Samsung Bioepis (a joint venture from electronics giant Samsung and biotech firm Biogen Idec) has submitted their Etanercept biosimilar candidate SB4 to the EMA, which is currently awaiting review. If approved, it is expected that they will obtain further approval in other territories where Etanercept is no longer protected. With the regulatory approval pathways differing from country to country, Etanercept biosimilars have been approved in smaller markets including India, China and South Korea.

US Market

In the US, the ‘molecule’ patents protecting active ingredient Etanercept have all expired aside from US8,063,182 (‘182) and US8,163,522 (‘522) members from priority CH331989 (1989-09-12) owned by Roche (exclusively licensed to Amgen), which are set to expire in 2028 and 2029, respectively. These patents members disclose a portion of the Etanercept sequence, so are considered to constrain biosimilar entry until expiry. The members are continuation patents filed from US5,610,279 (another member of the same family) and while they were both filed in May, 1995, were not issued until 2011 (‘182) and 2012 (‘522). Under the 35 U.S. Code § 154, these patents received 17 year patent term from the issuing date. Since these patents were applied for in 1995 during the transitional period of the TRIPS agreement, they were not published by the USPTO until they were issued. This situation often gives rise to the term ‘submarine patents’.

Currently there is no system to link relevant patents to biologic drugs in the US as with small molecule drugs (Orange Book) which makes filing biosimilars in the US a convoluted process. While the FDA are currently working on an equivalent to the Orange Book, the ‘Purple book’, companies wishing to develop biosimilars in the US need to do considerable patent landscape searching in order to avoid infringement of any patents potentially protecting the biologic drug. In the case of US member ‘182 and ‘522, upon inspection these patents are clearly relevant to Enbrel®, however without a registry there is no easy way of making this link. The patents have been flagged in the Key Patent module in Ark due to SPCs and paediatric extensions on the equivalent EP0939121 member and litigation in the US (see below).

Currently, biologic drugs approved in the US receive a 12 year data exclusivity period and in Europe, an 8 year data exclusivity period with additional 2 year market exclusivity, starting from the market authorisation date. Enbrel® was approved in 1998 and 2000, in the US and Europe, respectively and data exclusivity protection has therefore now expired.

Development of biosimilars takes considerably longer than generic medicine making it a costly venture for generic pharmaceutical manufacturers. According to Amgen, Enbrel® was protected by US5395760 (‘760) and US5605690 (‘690) members from priority 1989-09-05 which were set to lose patent protection in 2012 and 2014, respectively. In 2004, Sandoz began developing GP2015 a biosimilar equivalent of Etanercept, investing millions of dollars in the hope that they would be ready to launch by the time all the patent protection for Enbrel® expired. Currently, GP2015 is in Phase III study in the US and European Union for patients with moderate to severe chronic plaque-type psoriasis with respect to PASI 75 response rate at Week 12.

In June 2013, Sandoz filed a suit against Amgen and Roche in the US District Court for the Northern District of California seeking declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity and unenforceability of the ‘182 and ‘522 patents. Sandoz claimed a ‘case of controversy’ regarding the patents, as their research and development was based on the understanding that ‘760 and ‘690 patents members were protecting Enbrel®. With the issuing of ‘182 and ‘522 patents this has essentially delayed the prospect of an Etanercept biosimilar from entering the US market until 2029.

Amgen and Roche sought a dismissal of the proceeding due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, which was granted. Although Sandoz appealed the decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, since there was no real and immediate controversy as Sandoz had not yet filed an FDA application, and they had based their suit on future events and were not able to establish “real and immediate injury or threat of future injury.”


  1. saminakhan2001 says:

    Reblogged this on MEDCHEMEGYPT.

  2. medchemnintabelle says:

    Reblogged this on MedCheminAustralia.

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