October 8, 2014 / 4:02 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Amgen's Humira copy succeeds in skin disease trial

(Adds analyst comment, background; updates shares)

Oct 8 (Reuters) - Amgen Inc said its copycat version of AbbVie Inc’s blockbuster biotech drug Humira showed comparable safety and ability to generate immune response in patients with a type of skin disease.

The drug, ABP 501, was being tested in a late-stage trial in patients with plaque psoriasis, a skin disease caused by dysfunction of the immune system and which leads to painful, itchy red patches.

Humira, a rheumatoid arthritis injection, is also approved for a number of other inflammatory diseases including plaque psoriasis. The drug, whose patents will start expiring in December 2016, generated sales of $10.66 billion in 2013.

“We remain bullish about AMGN’s biosimilar prospects given the manufacturing expertise which would likely be key for success in biosimilar competition,” Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a note, pegging the future value of Amgen’s biosimilar business at $18 per share with a 100 percent probability.

Amgen has six biosimilar molecules in development and expects to launch the portfolio starting in 2017.

The trial met the main goal, with patients showing improvement based on the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index, a measure of the average redness, thickness and scaliness of the lesions at week 16, Amgen said.

This is the first of the two late-stage trials which will support the company’s regulatory applications for the drug.

Drug makers are currently chasing an emerging market for cheaper copies of costly biotech drugs, with more than 700 so-called biosimilars now in development or already approved, according to a major study of the sector published in September.

Major companies involved in the emerging biosimilars sector include Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Pfizer Inc.

Amgen’s shares were marginally higher at $137.36 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday.

Reporting by Amrutha Penumudi in Bangalore

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