What Are Biosimilars?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023

Biosimilars are prescription drugs used to treat many conditions. Several biosimilar drugs have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriasis. A biosimilar is a type of biologic that is similar to a previously approved biologic. The previously approved biologic is called the biosimilar’s reference product.1,2

Biologics have the same benefits and risks as their reference products, but they often cost less. The decision to use a biosimilar depends on personal factors. Some people switch because of a change in insurance coverage. Other people switch to save money.2,3

How do biosimilars work?

Like biologics, biosimilars are made from parts of living cells. They target specific parts of the immune system to block certain proteins, which reduces inflammation and symptoms.1,4

Each biosimilar is highly similar to a biologic drug that is already approved. Compared to the reference product, the biosimilar must:1,2

  • Provide the same treatment benefits
  • Have the same risk of side effects
  • Be approved for the same conditions
  • Have the same dosage and strength
  • Be given the same way

While biosimilars cost less than their reference drugs, they are no less safe or effective. The lower cost may increase coverage by insurance companies. This can give many people more options for psoriasis treatment.2,3

Some biosimilars are classified as “interchangeable.” These biosimilars meet higher standards. They must have the same clinical results as their reference product for any given person. A pharmacist can substitute your biologic with an interchangeable biosimilar.1-3

Biosimilars are not the same as generics. This is because they are not the exact same as their reference products. Biologics are large molecules and complex to produce. This makes it hard to make an exact copy.1,2

Examples of biosimilars

Many biosimilars are approved to treat psoriasis. Some of the biosimilars listed may not yet be available, and several others are under development. These may be approved and available in the future.1

Biosimilars to Humira® (adalimumab) include:5

  • Abrilada™ (adalimumab-afzb)
  • Amjevita™ (adalimumab-atto)
  • Cyltezo® (adalimumab-adbm)
  • Hadlima™ (adalimumab-bwwd)
  • Hulio® (adalimumab-fkjp)
  • Hyrimoz® (adalimumab-adaz)
  • Idacio® (adalimumab-aacf)
  • Yuflyma® (adalimumab-aaty)
  • Yusimry™ (adalimumab-aqvh)

Biosimilars to Remicade® (infliximab) include:6

  • Avsola® (infliximab-axxq)
  • Inflectra® (infliximab-dyyb)
  • Ixifi™ (infliximab-qbtx)
  • Renflexis™ (infliximab-abda)

Biosimilars to Enbrel® (etanercept) include:7

  • Erelzi™ (etanercept-szzs)
  • Eticovo™ (etanercept-ykro)

Biosimilars to Stelara® (ustekinumab) include:8-10

  • Wezlana™ (ustekinumab-auub)

Abrilada, Cyltezo, and Wezlana have been classified as interchangeable drugs.

What are the possible side effects?

Like all biologics, biosimilars increase the risk of infection. Talk to your doctor about how to reduce this risk. Call your doctor if you notice any signs of infection, including fever, cough, or flu-like symptoms.3,4

Other side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking. Common side effects of biosimilars for psoriasis include:3,4

  • Redness or pain at the injection site
  • Rash
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, or throat
  • Urinary tract infections

Serious side effects are possible. Biosimilars to Humira, Remicade, and Enbrel have boxed warnings, the strictest warning from the FDA. They have this warning because of an increased risk of serious infections and certain cancers.11-13

These are not all the possible side effects of biosimilars. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking a biosimilar drug. You should also call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking a biosimilar.

Other things to know

Biosimilars are taken the same way as their reference product. They are given as an intravenous (IV) injection or infusion. Some injections must be given by a medical professional, but you may be able to do some injections at home. Your doctor will talk to you about how your biosimilar should be given and often to take it.2,4

Biosimilars treat the same conditions as their reference product. Some can be used to treat other types of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Your doctor may prescribe a biosimilar with other treatments for psoriasis. Talk to your doctor to make sure your combination is safe.2,4

While you are taking a biosimilar, your doctor will monitor you for side effects. This may include screening for tuberculosis and other infections. They will monitor you to see how well the biosimilar is working. Like all biologics, biosimilars may stop working over time. If this happens, a different biologic or biosimilar may work better.2,4

Before beginning treatment for psoriasis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs. Tell them about:

  • Any allergies
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Past or current infections
  • History of heart or liver problems
  • Pregnancy or plans to become pregnant
  • Breastfeeding or plans to breastfeed

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