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Stada widens biotech drug offering with filgrastim license

The logo of the pharmaceutical company Stada Arzneimittel AG is pictured at its headquarters in Bad Vilbel near Frankfurt March 14, 2012. RE
The logo of the pharmaceutical company Stada Arzneimittel AG is pictured at its headquarters in Bad Vilbel near Frankfurt March 14, 2012. RE

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Stada will sell a version of U.S. drugmaker Amgen's blockbuster cancer treatment filgrastim in Europe, keeping faith with the difficult market for copies of medicines developed using biotechnology.

The German generic drugmaker said on Monday it agreed with Canada's Apotex Inc., which developed a filgrastim version based on Amgen's original, to market the drug in nearly all European Union countries.

Out-of-patent filgrastim, a biologic drug branded as Neupogen by Amgen and as Grastofil by Apotex, is used to boost production of infection-fighting white blood cells in certain cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Stada, which declined to disclose financial terms, plans to start sales next year, hoping to win a slice of the 1 billion euro ($1.4 billion) European filgrastim market.

Generic versions of biologic drugs, made from genetically modified cell cultures, are known as biosimilars because the original cannot be exactly replicated like standard chemical drugs.

Stada has been among the first European generics makers to invest in biosimilars, winning European approval for a version of anemia treatment epo as early as 2007, but the business has so far failed to make meaningful contributions to group sales.

Stada, which struck a biosimilars alliance with Gedeon Richter over two cancer drugs in 2011, declined to break out its current biosimilar drug revenues.

Apotex's version of filgrastim earlier this year received regulatory approval from the European Commission.

U.S. drug regulators in August gave the nod to a Teva Pharmaceutical Industries version of filgrastim.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Frank Siebelt; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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