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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.

Extrapolation of indications for mAbs

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) biosimilars have recently entered the market, raising questions in the healthcare community. One of the questions discussed by Professor Pierre Michetti, a gastroenterologist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland, was that of extrapolation of indications for mAbs [1].

Beyond biosimilarity

The advent of monoclonal antibody (mAb) biosimilars has raised a series of questions in the healthcare community. Just a few of these questions were discussed by Professor Pierre Michetti, a gastroenterologist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland [1]. 

Efficacy and safety of biosimilar infliximab compared to other biologicals in rheumatoid arthritis

In the paper by Baji et al. [1], the authors carried out a meta-analysis to compare the efficacy and safety of biosimilar infliximab and other available biologicals for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), namely abatacept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, rituximab and tocilizumab. The analysis compared the recommended doses of biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) indicated in RA.

Safety concerns limit similar biologics uptake in India

How do concerns about the safety of domestic biologicals limit the uptake of ‘similar biologics’ in India? This is a question that author Malipatil tried to address in his review of similar biologics in India [1].

Differences between biosimilars and reference products

A review of glycosylated biosimilars approved in the European Union (EU) and Japan has highlighted structural variances between biosimilars and their reference products [1].

Pharmacovigilance for biologicals in The Netherlands

Escher is an independent regulatory research platform run by Netherlands-based research enabler TI Pharma. The group recently published a paper in the journal Drug Safety on the traceability of biologicals in clinical practice and adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting [1]. This paper concludes that in The Netherlands brand names are not routinely recorded in clinical practice and batch numbers are poorly recorded. The findings suggest that the limited traceability of brand names and batch numbers in ADR reports for biologicals may be primarily caused by the shortcomings in the recording and tracing of information in clinical practice.

Barriers to biologicals competition

As finding breakthrough small-molecule drugs becomes more difficult, drug companies are increasingly turning to ‘large molecule’ biologicals. Although biologicals represent many of the most promising new therapies for previously intractable diseases, they are extremely expensive. Moreover, the pathway for generic-type competition set up by the US Congress in 2010 is unlikely to yield significant cost savings.

Adalimumab biosimilar meets primary endpoint in pharmacokinetic study

On 21 December 2015, Baxalta, a spinoff company from Baxter International, and US-based biotechnology firm Momenta Pharmaceuticals (Momenta) announced positive results from a pharmacokinetic study with their candidate adalimumab biosimilar M923.

Positive phase III results for cetuximab and infliximab copy biologicals

US-based biopharmaceutical company Sorrento Therapeutics (Sorrento) announced on 11 January 2016 that its partner, MabTech had successfully completed phase III clinical trials in China for STI-001, a copy biological for cetuximab (Erbitux) and STI‑002, a copy biological for infliximab (Remicade). Both STI-001 and STI-002 met their primary endpoints in confirmatory, randomized, controlled, two-part phase III studies.

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