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Biosimilar epoetin-κ equivalent to epoetin-β

In 1989, the first recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO) preparation, epoetin-α, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of anaemia associated with kidney disease. Since then, several clinically approved rEPO preparations, such as epoetin-β, epoetin-δ and the epoetin-α derivative, darbepoietin-α, have been commercially produced. Since the expiration of patent protection, a number of biosimilars have also been approved on the world market.

Inflammatory arthritis: auditioning for the role of biosimilar

Targeted biological therapies have proven themselves highly effective in the treatment of inflammatory joint diseases, but their benefits are restricted by cost. Biosimilars of these therapies would offer affordable alternatives, but establishing biosimilarity presents many challenges, write Professors Jonathan Kay and Josef Smolen [1].

Guiding principles for biosimilars development

In contrast to chemically synthesized small-molecule drugs, biologicals have complex structures of high molecular weight. Therefore, even small changes in the production processes may lead to differences in the final product. The manufacturers of the originator product are not required to disclose their manufacturing process after the patent expiry. This gap in knowledge increases the probability of introducing changes in the manufacturing process of biosimilars, making producing an identical copy of a biological virtually impossible. Indeed, even different batches of the same originator biological may show a certain level of heterogeneity.

Use of formularies could increase use of biosimilars

Whether or not the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits automatic substitution of biosimilars, healthcare systems can still consider using formularies as a way to increase the use of more affordable biosimilars [1].

The case for improving biosimilar regulatory frameworks worldwide

In developing countries, where the cost benefits of biosimilar drugs would have the greatest impact, the financial investment needed to develop biosimilars renders them inaccessible. The situation requires increased input from international evaluation frameworks, such as those of the World Health Organization (WHO); write Barbara Milani and Sara Gaspani of Médecins Sans Frontières, Geneva, Switzerland [1].

Improving access to HCV treatment in developing countries

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects 150–180 million people worldwide each year, killing an estimated 350,000. The considerable cost of treatment – US$ 10,000–US$20,000 per patient for a 48-week course – presents an insurmountable barrier in developing countries, where the disease burden is greatest. Barbara Milani and Sara Gaspani of Médecins Sans Frontières, Geneva, Switzerland, have collected information on biosimilars and other alternatives to the current recommended treatment, pegylated interferon alpha (in combination with ribavirin) [1]. With these findings, they hope to accelerate the search for feasible, accessible alternatives to current therapies.

Bioanalytical challenges in the development of biosimilars

Some of the topics presented at an international conference on biowaivers and biosimilars, held in the US in September 2012, were applicable to large-molecule bioanalytical methods. These included assay format, glycosylation and immunogenicity, and how differences in these components can impact the evaluation of biosimilars and their subsequent approval.

Immunogenicity testing in biosimilars

During a presentation given by Dr Kelly Colletti (Laboratory Sciences, USA) at an international conference on biowaivers and biosimilars, held in the US in September 2012, it was discussed whether one or two assays should be employed in order to measure anti-drug antibodies to both the biosimilar and reference biological in a comparative manner [1].

Analysis of carbohydrate containing biosimilars

During a presentation given by Dr Azadi Parastoo, University of Georgia, GA, USA, at the international conference on biowaivers and biosimilars, held in the US in September 2012, the types of analytical techniques that can be utilized in order to characterize differences in glycosylation for analysis of biosimilars were discussed [1].

Establishing mAb biosimilarity before reaching the clinic

Confirming the biosimilarity of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is fraught with challenges beyond those faced by currently approved biosimilars, warn Ebbers and co-authors at Utrecht University, The Netherlands [1]. The threat of unexpected immunogenicity has been well reported, but the problems do not start there. The first steps towards establishing the biosimilarity of an anticancer mAb, the preclinical stage, presents challenges of its own.

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