Wednesday October 15, 05:27 PM
Schering AG and Schering-Plough's enhanced delivery formulations of interferons have been approved patient convenience of PEG-Intron is expected to consolidate Schering-Plough's early leader position in the US hepatitis C market. But in multiple sclerosis, Schering AG's reformulations of Betaferon will merely delay erosion of US market share by newer entrants with reduced side-effect profiles.
In the face of intense competition from newer products in their respective markets, Schering AG and Schering-Plough received approval for improved formulations of their interferons this week. Schering AG received US go-ahead for its Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment Betaferon in a pre-filled diluent syringe. Schering-Plough gained approval for the PEG-Intron Redipen, a pre-filled pen-like syringe device for administering the hepatitis C drug.
PEG-Intron, the most prescribed interferon treatment for chronic hepatitis C, is under threat from Roche's Pegasys, launched in the US in 2002. One competitive advantage that Pegasys had over PEG-Intron was its greater ease of use - its fixed dose formulation means there is no need to premix or titrate Pegasys before use - and Schering-Plough's PEG-Intron offers a direct response to this.
By contrast, Schering AG's Betaferon does not hold a leading position. Despite being first to market in the US, it faces strong competition from Serono (Virt-X: SEOZ.VX - news) 's Rebif, Biogen (NASDAQ: BGEN - news) 's Avonex and Teva's Copaxone. Betaferon's share of sales fell from 32.2% in 1999 to 26.1% in 2002, as physicians prescribed new patients Rebif or Avonex, due to their superior side effect profiles and greater convenience than Betaferon's every-other-day formulation.
Schering AG, keen to expand its Betaferon franchise in the face of these threats, launched an autoinjector in 2003 and a room temperature stable formulation in 2002. It is also aggressively pursuing other lifecycle management strategies, conducting trials of a higher dose regimen, and pursuing less competitive areas of the market, such as clinically definite MS and secondary progressive MS.
In the case of the hepatitis C market, with limited difference in efficacy
and side-effect profiles of the leading drugs, Schering-Plough is expected
to continue to dominate the US, thanks to its early leader position and
lifecycle management strategies. In the MS market, by contrast, Betaferon's
new formulations will delay loss of market share, but its inferior side
effect profile means it is unlikely to draw the highest revenues in the
face of strong competition.
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