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Biologicals: characteristics that make them unique and special

The unique characteristics of biologicals were discussed in a review of biosimilars in rheumatology by author José M Serra López-Matencio and colleagues from the Universidad Autónoma, Madrid, Spain*.

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.

Switching between different ESAs

Switching between reference biologicals and biosimilars can be a contentious issue. A study from Italy, however, has found that this phenomenon is not limited to reference products and their biosimilars, but also often occurs between originator biologicals and other originator biologicals within the same category [1].

Candidate infliximab biosimilar SB2 equivalent to Remicade

Results from a phase III clinical trial for a candidate biosimilar version of infliximab in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis has shown SB2 to be equivalent to Remicade [1].

Biosimilar etanercept safe and effective

In a study funded by Samsung Bioepis (a Biogen and Samsung joint venture), their candidate etanercept biosimilar (SB4) has been found to be safe and well tolerated and to be equivalent in terms of efficacy compared to Enbrel (etanercept) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) [1].

Phase III results of adalimumab biosimilar demonstrate equivalence

South Korean electronics giant Samsung and biotechnology company Biogen Idec’s joint venture Samsung Bioepis announced on 6 July 2015 phase III data demonstrating the ‘clinical equivalence’ of their adalimumab biosimilar (SB5) compared to the originator biological, Humira.

Positive phase III results for candidate etanercept and infliximab biosimilars

Results of pivotal phase III clinical studies of candidate etanercept biosimilar SB4 and candidate infliximab biosimilar SB2 met their primary endpoints, demonstrating equivalence to the originator biological in patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) despite methotrexate therapy [1, 2].

Phase I results for candidate adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab biosimilars

Results of phase I clinical studies of candidate adalimumab biosimilar SB5, etanercept biosimilar SB4 and infliximab biosimilar SB2, demonstrated equivalence safety profiles to their originator biologicals in healthy subjects [1-3].

Effectiveness of ESAs in treating anaemia in kidney disease and cancer patients

Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are biological analogues of human erythropoietin used for the treatment of anaemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and chemotherapy treatment in cancer patients [1]. ESA biosimilars have been available on the Italian market since 2007. However, only limited post-marketing data exist on the comparative effectiveness of biosimilar and originator ESAs in routine care.

Monoclonal antibodies and the challenge of substitution

Healthcare payers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of biosimilar competition in the innovative monoclonal antibody sector in order to drive down drug prices and increase patients’ access to these medicines. As the first to introduce scientific and regulatory requirements for the approval of biosimilars in 2004, the European Union (EU) has emerged as a testing ground for biosimilars. In view of the lack of stance of EU governments and national institutions on substitution for biosimilars, hospitals and healthcare structures logically took up this major issue.

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