Novartis’s Biosimilar Rituxan Is ‘On Track,’ Sandoz Head Says

Novartis AG’s development of a version of the best-selling drug Rituxan is proceeding as planned, Jeff George, who heads the company’s Sandoz generics unit, said in an interview today.

“Our program is on track,” George said in Tokyo today. “But we’ve never given a time line as to when we are coming to market with the product.”

Companies including Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH are racing to bring a biosimilar version of the drug, also known as rituximab, to the market. The original compound, sold by Roche Holding AG and Biogen Idec Inc., had about $7 billion in sales last year. Roche’s Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan said in January that the introduction of Sandoz’s product may be delayed until 2016, Bloomberg Industries analysts wrote in a note.

“What I can say is that a number of competitors have faced issues with their clinical trial programs,” George said.

Sandoz is running trials in the two most important indications of the drug, rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rituxan is also sold as MabThera.