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Lonza Drops on Roche Drug Copy Testing Concerns: Zurich Mover

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Lonza AG dropped the most in a week after saying it hasn’t decided how to proceed with trials for a copy of Roche Holding AG’s best-selling Rituxan cancer drug with partner Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Shares of the Swiss supplier to the pharmaceutical industry dropped as much as 2.5 percent and traded 2 percent lower at 49.61 Swiss francs at 11:30 a.m. in Zurich. That gave Basel-based Lonza a market capitalization of 2.6 billion francs ($2.8 billion).

Teva and Lonza have not started phase III trials for rituximab, a generic copy of Rituxan, Dirk Oehlers, a spokesman for Lonza, said by telephone. The company is evaluating how to move forward with testing as the regulatory environment for biosimilars, or generic copies, gets more restrictive, he said.

The 100 million franc to 150 million franc cost of developing a biosimilar “could be a burden for Lonza to reduce net debt in the future,” Carla Baenziger, an analyst at Vontobel Holding AG in Zurich, said in a note to investors. It is too early to interpret that Lonza wants to quit biosimilars, she said.

Lonza and Teva’s rituximab trial “will go ahead” and the company will provide updates when new information is available, Oehlers said. He didn’t give a time frame for the trial.

Teva is “firmly committed to development of biosimilars” and more updates on R&D will come at an investor day on Dec. 11 , the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Rituxan is Roche’s top-selling drug, with sales of 6 billion francs last year. The drug is approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Winters in Zurich at pwinters3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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