Vol. 4 No. 7 (2024): July
Peer-Reviewed Article

National and International Policies on the Use of Biosimilars: An Environmental Scan

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Published July 4, 2024

Key Messages

  • Biosimilars are biologic drugs that are highly similar to their reference biologics that were already authorized for sale.
  • Interchangeability is a term used to describe when 1 drug can be exchanged for another and is expected to have the same clinical effect. Interchangeability may allow 1 medicine to be substituted for another at the time of dispensing (automatic substitution). However, the decision to allow automatic substitution is made by each jurisdiction according to its own regulations.
  • Interchangeability of a reference biologic (the originator product) and a biosimilar is a designation in the US and Finland. The US, France, Germany, Norway, and Australia allow automatic substitution between reference biologics and biosimilars, whereas other countries do not. Interchangeability is limited to select products in the US and Australia.
  • The countries included in this Environmental Scan (N = 13) endorse starting patients who have not yet received treatment on a biosimilar. Switching between reference biologics and biosimilars is generally allowed in all the countries included in this review; however, many jurisdictions prefer switching be clinician led with ongoing clinical monitoring of patients.
  • Practices such as target setting, quotas, and financial incentives, as well as guidelines and recommendations for prescription of biosimilars, can be effective ways to encourage biosimilar use. Mandatory switching is also implemented in 11 Canadian jurisdictions.
  • Extrapolation is the regulatory and scientific process of granting a clinical indication to a medicine without clinical efficacy and safety data to support that indication. Extrapolation of indications for reference biologics to biosimilars is reasonable, provided several factors are comparable: mechanism of action across indications, pharmacokinetics and biodistribution, safety, immunogenicity, and other factors that affect the safety and efficacy for each indication and patient population.
  • Pricing and procurement practices vary internationally. Some countries implement policies controlling the list price of a biosimilar (and its reference drug less commonly) at the time of biosimilar launch. Pricing policies include a free-pricing policy (i.e., manufacturers are free to set the price of biosimilars) and mandatory price reductions. Tendering is the most common practice in procurement to achieve lower prices and to increase biosimilar uptakes in 8 countries reviewed in this Environmental Scan.
  • Biosimilar-related policies and markets are rapidly evolving, so recent changes might have not been fully captured in this Environmental Scan. Therefore, caution is required in interpreting the findings.