Study: Biosimilars comparable to branded counterparts


BALTIMORE, Md. — A new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is highlighting the similarities between biosimilar drugs and the biologic drugs they seek to imitate. The study looked at scientific literature around biosimilars to conclude that “biosimilar drugs have very similar safety and effectiveness as their counterparts.”


“The billion-dollar question has been whether these ‘generic biologics’ are the same as the brand-name versions,” said study leader Dr.  G. Caleb Alexander, associate professor in the Dept. Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “The same debate occurred with the advent of less complicated generic drugs and now it’s being hashed out all over again with much more at stake – more room for error and more potential for cost savings to the health system. But based on the available evidence, we conclude that the products we studied appear comparable, and they will definitely be cheaper.”


Among the biosimilars researchers focused on was Inflectra, which was developed by Pfizer’s Hospira as a biosimilar to Janssen Biotech’s Remicade. The drug is the first approved treatment in a class of medications called TNF-α inhibitors, and researchers found it to be as effective as Remicade. 


“Our study should reassure clinicians and patients and, importantly, the folks who pay the bills – insurance companies and government programs like Medicare ¬– that biosimilar TNF-α inhibitors appear comparable to their branded counterparts based on the evidence we have thus far,” Alexander said. “Hopefully, this will encourage the brisk adoption of these products. There is no question that greater competition in this market will benefit patients, prescribers and society in the long run.”


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