Biosimilars Forum Member Spotlight: 6 Questions for Coherus

The Biosimilars Forum is comprised of companies with the most significant U.S. biosimilars development portfolios. Today, we’re highlighting Coherus. The Forum spoke with Coherus’ CEO Dennis Lanfear about Coherus and its work in the biosimilars landscape.

Biosimilars Forum: You founded Coherus in 2010 on the heels of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act’s (BPCIA) passage and quickly grew it to become the leading pure-play biosimilars company. Can you explain why creating value in the health care system through biosimilars was important to you?

Lanfear: In 2010, after decades working in the biopharmaceutical industry, I founded Coherus BioSciences with the vision of improving the public’s access to high-quality, life-changing medicines. Since 2010 we have been focused on creating high-quality biosimilar treatments to give patients and providers the power of choice: Biosimilars are for use in place of existing, branded biologics. They establish competition into the U.S. health care system, giving patients access to life-saving therapies and providers choice with equivalent quality.

Biosimilars Forum: Some believe we are in the “Golden Age” of biosimilars. What does this mean to you and what is necessary to either make this a reality or make sure it continues?

Lanfear: Last year, a new IQVIA report was released that reaffirmed the potential of biosimilars, highlighting that these life-saving drugs could save the U.S. health care system $100 billion in the next five years. But these savings cannot be achieved without smart policy solutions on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in the House, Senate, and the Biden administration need to double down and work together on bipartisan solutions that enhance access to and use of biosimilars to provide financial relief to the entire health care system.

Biosimilars Forum: With a broad pipeline of biosimilars for various conditions, Coherus has shown a particular commitment to cancer care with the launch of its first biosimilar Udenyca. What strides have you made in this space?

Lanfear: Coherus is committed to producing high-quality, high-value biosimilars and to shifting the paradigm in oncology by providing choice of important treatment options. Udenyca is an FDA-approved pegfilgrastim biosimilar administered the day after chemotherapy to lower patient risk of infection, stimulating the growth of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that can be depleted during chemotherapy treatment. White blood cells are vitally important in the body’s fight against infection.

Biosimilars like Udenyca introduce competition into the marketplace and can lower the cost of cancer-related treatment. Udenyca launched at a 33% discount to the brand name product, Neulasta, making this treatment more accessible to patients. Studies analyzing the cost savings possible from switching patients from the brand name product to pegfilgrastim biosimilars, including Udenyca, found significant savings potential and concluded that hospitalization costs could be lowered by switching to biosimilar pegfilgrastim from the pegfilgrastim on-body injector (OBI).

In 2021, we expanded our mission to include immuno-oncology with our in-license of toripalimab, a novel PD-1 antibody with a compelling late-stage clinical profile. With this transaction, we are entering the rapidly growing checkpoint inhibitor market, which is expected to exceed $25 billion in the United States by 2025. Our strategy is to invest the cash generated by our biosimilar commercial business to build a focused immuno-oncology franchise which will leverage our development and commercial capabilities into large and growing markets. 

Biosimilars Forum: Coherus manufactures biosimilars here in America, localizing drug supply chains that the pandemic exposed as an industry-wide risk. What does “Made In America” mean to Coherus and has that meaning changed over time?

Lanfear: Coherus has been focused on developing this life-saving treatment on American soil for American patients. We have created hundreds of jobs, saving the country over $1.5 billion dollars since 2019 launch. Udenyca was developed in-house here in the U.S. Coherus has more than 12 partners in the U.S. Our commitment to being made in America for America has not changed and is only now being strengthened. We believe more manufacturing could and should be done here on American soil supporting American jobs and patients.  As Congress grapples with incentives to create more American manufacturing jobs, we will look for ways to partner with Congress and the Administration for our future products and partnerships.

Biosimilars Forum: Biosimilars are lower-cost alternatives to brand name biologics, but that does not make them less innovative treatments. Can you explain why biosimilars are perceived as such and why that assumption is untrue?  

Lanfear: Biosimilars essentially innovate for the same outcome while increasing access and providing more savings. Although referred to as the generic equivalent to biologics, biosimilars are complex treatments and cannot be produced as simply as small chemical compounds. They provide a pathway for patients to access life-saving medicines that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise.  We appreciate the BPCIA, and believe now is the time to strengthen it.

Biosimilars Forum:  Over the past few months, Congress has introduced several policies that will help increase access to and savings from biosimilars. While this is a step in the right direction, what else needs to be done to enhance the biosimilars market?

Lanfear: Legislative changes can help better balance incentives for providers, physicians, and payers to utilize biosimilars. Potential legislative proposals we support include increasing add on payments for biosimilars, creating a biosimilars shared savings model, instituting zero co-payments for patients, and ensuring the FDA will use their authority to combat misinformation around biosimilars in the marketplace. Congress needs to continue to focus on these policies and make sure that the bills are advanced, passed, and sent to the President for his signature. 2021 presents an opportunity for the Biden Administration and Congress to embrace biosimilars as a meaningful and actionable component in cost containment and expansion of patient access. The American free market can serve all stakeholders, especially patients, through better use of biosimilars. More incentives are needed for the biosimilars market to reach its full potential, as we have seen in places like Europe where biosimilar access and use is more widespread. There is no status-quo in place to enhance the biosimilars market. Congress needs to work to create a system that will bring savings to patients, taxpayers, and the health care system at-large.