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What are Biosimilars? And where are we with their uptake?

Biosimiliars are a type of medical drug, which use living organisms, or matter derived from living organisms, as their active ingredient. Uptake for their use in the UK stands at around 30 per cent, a much lower figure than the German uptake rate of 50 per cent.

Reasons for the comparative lack of uptake in the United Kingdom are varied, but seem to centre mainly on two factors. Firstly, a reluctance persists among physicians to prescribe biosimilars as treatment for patients. There also seems to be a continuing unwillingness on the part of healthcare payers to make use of biosimilars.

There is a further complicating factor, too, though. Pharmacist substitution of a biosimilar for an originator biologic continues to be prohibited in the United Kingdom. This means that biosimilars are more usually prescribed for people suffering a new condition, rather than as an alternative continuation of pre-existing treatment programmes.

Despite these inhibitors to uptake, there have been strong performances by specific types of product. Biosimilar filgrastim has performed well in the market, with uptake in excess in 80 per cent. By January 2013, it had actually managed to capture a 90 per cent volume share of the total market for filgrastim in the UK. This has, in turn, helped to boost the overall granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) market. Daily volume use of G-CSF has grown by 40 per cent since the launch of biosimilars. While high standard procurement and prescription mechanisms have helped to produce this increase, safety considerations may also have played a part, with this type of biosimilar generally judged to be very safe for patients.

Despite this success, biosimilar somatropin has not enjoyed the same level of British uptake. There are some safety concerns associated with it, though, especially regarding its use in children. Other well-known products are also in direct competition with it, while the method of the treatment's most effective delivery has also yet to be decided upon. This pattern is laregly repeated across the European Union. Epoetin biosimilars have enjoyed moderate uptake in the UK.

What does seem clear, though, is that take-up for biosimilars has been limited in the United Kingdom, as well as elsewhere in the European Union. Only a limited number of biosimilars have been approved for marketing, as things stand currently. As time passes, however, and biologics, such as monoclonal antibody-based products, start to expire, then it is expected that the use of biosimilars in the UK will grow.

Tim Aldiss writes for Datamonitor Healthcare where you can find the latest healthcare research.


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