Biosimilars vs Biologics...What's the Scoop?

Have you heard of biosimilars? They are basically a similar form of brand name biologics. There has been some debate on whether or not the biosimilar option is safe to use. What would this mean for the future of these drugs and how are they different from what is already on the market? The main objective is biosimilars are cheaper thus more affordable for those living with chronic diseases. By providing cheaper options for drugs it gives more people the opportunity to achieve psoriasis free skin.

What are the differences?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), biosimilars aren't considered "generic" because they aren't an exact copy of biologics.1 Psoriasis, just like most autoimmune diseases, is due to an over-reactive immune system. The molecules used to make these two drugs are different, but both drugs work to target specific areas of the immune system that are over-reactive to change them to a normal state, thus eliminating the cause of psoriasis. It's important to remember, these drugs don't cure, but simply regulate the immune system.

Health insurance coverage

In my opinion, biosimilars may make it harder for people to be approved for biologics. Since biosimilars are cheaper to make, then, of course, it would be the first option recommended by the insurance companies. This may add an additional step to the required step therapy which most insurance companies require before you can be approved for a biologic. Step therapy usually requires one to prove that they can not achieve psoriasis free skin with cheaper treatment options.

I also wonder if one would be required by their health insurance company to switch from a brand name biologic to a biosimilar? According to the FDA, "An interchangeable product may be substituted for the reference product without the intervention of the health care provider who prescribed the reference product.2"

Biosimilar examples

So it seems as though neither physicians nor patients will have much of a say when it comes to brand name biologics being switched out with biosimilars. The FDA also states that the biosimilar is expected to produce the same results as the original biologics, but some healthcare professionals aren't sure if this is 100% true. Last June, during the "More Than Skin Deep Event" in Atlanta Georgia, Doctor Jonathan Weiss of Gwinnett Dermatology said the following, "We don't know for people, if they respond to Humira, that you are going to respond to Amjevita (Biosimilar to Humira). It's a belief that you will, and it's probably true that you will, but we don't know it."

Right now there have been 3 biosimilars, which are to help improve psoriasis, approved by the FDA, but they are not available for a doctor to prescribe as of yet. Per the NPF, the drugs are as follows:1

  • Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) is a biosimilar medicine to Humira (adalimumab)
  • Erelzi (etanercept-szzs) is a biosimilar medicine to Enbrel (etanercept)
  • Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb) is a biosimilar medicine to Remicade (infliximab)

So what's your take on the situation? Would you be ok with switching to or trying a biosimilar for the first time?

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