Pfizer has announced the intention to acquire Hospira, a leading company in the production of biosimilar drugs, which are the generic copies of biotech drugs. The total value of the deal is about $17 billion, the companies said.

The operation may open new strategic frontiers for Pfizer business, as biosimilars will expand their market positions upon the expiring of original patents. A biosimilar drug typically costs 20-30 percent less than the original.

Hospira is waiting for the approval from the FDA for its copy of Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster arthritis treatment infliximab.