Has your physician mentioned biosimilars?

November 14, 2022

FDA-approved medications may offer lower-cost options

Approved for use in the United States in 2015, biosimilar drugs were created to make life-saving treatments more available and at a lower cost.

What is a biosimilar drug?

That requires a little explanation. According to the American Cancer Society, a “biosimilar” drug is “a medicine that is very close in structure and function to a biologic medicine.”

What is a “biologic” drug? That is a medicine made in a living system, think bacteria, human and animal cells or even yeast. Biologics are used to help boost a body’s immune system as well as recognize and kill cancer cells more effectively. Biologics can also help the body make more blood cells to replace those lost during cancer treatments.

A biosimilar drug has a similar structure but is not the same as a brand-name biologic. That said, a biosimilar medication can’t be approved and/or prescribed unless it behaves in exactly the same way as a biologic.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved biosimilar medications as safe and effective treatments for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and others.

On average, verywellhealth.com reports that biosimilar drugs are 30% less expensive than biologic drugs. The cost-savings are generated, in part, by more market competition and a shorter manufacturing and approval process. It’s important to note, however, that the biosimilar drug still must be found to be safe and effective before it can be approved.

Interested in learning more? The Regence Health Policy Center is sponsoring a free webinar titled:  “Improving Drug Affordability: The Promise of Biosimilars” from 11 to 11:45 a.m. (PT) on Nov. 29. Click here for details and to RSVP.