The implications of intellectual property management decisions are looming large in the pharmaceutical industry as a number of major manufacturers approach patent expiration dates on some of their most widely-distributed medications. According to analysts from Frost & Sullivan, the next several months will represent a critical period for smaller competitors as a rare market opportunity arises for producers of biosimilar drugs.
Biosimilars have nearly identical clinical effects as their brand name counterparts, but unlike generics they display small distinctions in the structure of their inactive ingredients. While Frost and Sullivan analysts have suggested that the biosimilars market is still in its "nascent stage," it could be poised for significant growth.
In the burgeoning European marketplace, for example, revenues could climb to nearly $4 billion by 2017, up from just $172 million in 2010.
Faced with pent-up demand for more affordable alternatives, large pharmaceuticals may show increased interest in developing partnerships with smaller competitors to gain footing in this arena.
"Collaborations among large pharmaceutical companies with financial capabilities and specialty biotech companies with technical expertise are expected," explained Frost & Sullivan analyst Srinivas Sashidhar. "The strong integration of marketing and research and development skills is the key to success in the biosimilar market."
According to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, there was an approximate one-third reduction in patent filings among large pharmaceutical companies between 2007 and 2009, suggesting that the industry could be preparing for the forthcoming sea change with a shift in strategy.