The biosimilars sector is at "a nascent stage" but the impending patent expiries of blockbuster biologics will provide impetus to considerable market development.

That is the key message in a new report by Frost & Sullivan, which finds that the biosimilars market earned revenue of $172.0 million in 2010. However this is expected to reach $3.99 billion in 2017, at a compound annual growth rate of 56.7% over the seven-year period.

The growth areas will be the existing biosimilars segments (erythropoietin, granulocyte colony stimulating factors and human growth hormones) and the emerging areas of monoclonal antibodies, insulin and interferon, both alpha and beta. F&S analyst Srinivas Sashidhar says that "price reduction strategies will ensure increased adoption among physicians and patients alike, spurring market advancement".

The analysis notes that while the market offers "lucrative growth prospects, the need for sizeable investments will pose a serious challenge to smaller firms". Companies will have to fork out for complex production processes, expensive biological and chemical materials "and rigorous clinical trials as well as mandatory safety, efficacy and quality tests".

High manufacturing costs are another major market entry barrier, notes F&S,  and says that companies "need to have strongly-integrated R&D, production, sales and marketing processes to ensure market success", possibly through collaborations. The report concludes that "effective sales communication to the scientific community, coupled with continuous promotional activities as well as close and constant interaction with doctors and pharmacists, will promote greater uptake of biosimilars".