Biosimilars Lure Major Drugmakers Into the Generics Biz

About $47 billion of drugs from human cells will soon go off patent. Copying them won’t be easy
Photo illustration by 731; Photograph by Tim Hawley/Getty Images (pills)

Call it the Revenge of Big Pharma. Generic drug companies such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries have made billions since the late 1980s by reverse engineering best-selling drugs that came off patent—escaping hefty development and marketing costs—and selling them cheaply. When it comes to copying the best-selling treatments that are coming off patent today—a category known as biologics, medicines produced using the body’s own cells rather than through chemical reactions in a lab—the companies with the expertise to develop and market them are pharmaceutical giants. That leaves companies like Israel-based Teva, the largest maker of generics, increasingly on the sidelines.

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