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ZURICH, June 19 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis on Monday said it had won European approval for its biosimilar version of Roche's blockbuster Rituxan as the crosstown rivals go head-to-head on a drug to treat blood cancers and immunological diseases.
Novartis's medicine Rixathon is made by the company's generics unit Sandoz and aims to lure business away from Roche's medicine, also known as MabThera, with a lower price.
Roche's Rituxan amassed 7.3 billion Swiss francs ($7.50 billion) in global sales in 2016.
"Sandoz is committed to increasing patient access to biologic medicines, and Rixathon will be one of the five major launches we plan in the next four years," Carol Lynch, Sandoz's global head of biopharmaceuticals, said in a statement.
This is Novartis's fourth biosimilar version - a near copy of a biological medicine - of a name-brand drug to be approved in Europe.
$1 = 0.9739 Swiss francs Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Himani Sarkar