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How the biosimilars market is changing

Access to high quality medicine at affordable prices without jeopardizing patients’ health is one of the key challenges in developed countries where rising life expectancy and growing average age puts pressure on national healthcare systems. Biosimilars represent a class of medicinal products that seem to be attractive in tackling this challenge. However, market acceptance of biosimilars in general is still low.

Pharmacokinetic behaviour of a trastuzumab biocomparables

Biosimilars represent a viable alternative for the treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases of many patients worldwide who cannot afford the costs of biotherapies based on originator products. Trastuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody, which is used for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer. In the review paper of Miranda-Hernández et al. [1], the authors described the development of a trastuzumab biocomparable by Mexico-based Probiomed. This biocomparable, according to the authors, was developed in compliance with international guidelines and the characterization of Critical Quality Attributes (CQAs), as well as the pharmacokinetic parameters evaluated in healthy volunteers, demonstrated comparability with the reference product.

Benefits and concerns related to biosimilars

As patents of the first introduced biological therapeutics in oncology have begun to expire, competing pharmaceutical companies are allowed to produce and market the same protein as the originator agent. This follows the pattern of the development of generics. However, biosimilars are fundamentally different from generics. Particularly in the field of oncology, the introduction of monoclonal antibodies has resulted in spectacular therapeutic advances by increasing the cure rate of early cancers and prolonging survival. Similar advances have occurred in rheumatology, haematology, neurology and other fields. Most therapeutic biologicals are monoclonal antibodies with molecular weights of around 140,000 Daltons [1]. Other peptides include hormones, growth factors and vaccines [2]. Most of those products are expensive and their broad application drains the financial resources of healthcare systems. Therefore, the development of biosimilars is expected to be mutually beneficial for both the pharmaceutical industry and society: pharmaceutical companies may enter a lucrative business, whereas payers reasonably expect lower prices for these costly but essential drugs.

Pharmacovigilance compliance for biocomparables in Mexico

Filgrastim is widely used in Mexico, as in other countries. Its patent has expired and hence several non-originator biologicals have appeared. Following WHO guidelines, the General Health Law of Mexico was modified in 2009 to provide a solid regulatory environment for biosimilars (or biocomparables as they are called in Mexico) [1].

Naming affects pharmacists’ perceptions and dispensing of biosimilars

A study of pharmacists, carried out jointly by the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) and the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA), found that pharmacists had a preference for distinguishable names. However, the study also found that using the same names for interchangeable biologicals would make pharmacists more likely to dispense biosimilars [1].

Positive phase III results for Boehringer’s adalimumab biosimilar

Germany-based biologicals specialist Boehringer Ingelheim (Boehringer) announced on 26 October 2016 positive results from its pivotal phase III study of its candidate adalimumab biosimilar.

Positive phase III results for Celltrion’s rituximab biosimilar

Phase III studies of a rituximab biosimilar from Celltrion have, according to the company, shown that the biosimilar is ‘equivalent’ to Roche’s MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab).

Positive results for etanercept and bevacizumab biosimilars

A phase III study of an etanercept biosimilar from Sandoz and a phase I study of a bevacizumab biosimilar from Boehringer Ingelheim have, according to the companies, shown the biosimilars to be ‘bioequivalent’ (bevacizumab) or have ‘equivalent’ safety and efficacy (etanercept) compared to their respective originator biologicals.

Biosimilars help reduce the costs of cancer care

The costs for cancer drugs have been increasing significantly in countries around the world. With the arrival of new therapies, the future of cancer care is exciting. But how will healthcare systems be able to pay for such innovations? In their commentary, Goldstein and co-authors discuss how biosimilars could help alleviate such challenges [1].

Safety differences in clinical trials for biosimilars

Differences in safety evaluations and findings between clinical trials for biosimilars are highlighted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, USA and Newcastle University in the UK. This they argue is a reason for clinical trial design for biosimilars to be standardized [1].