Biosimilar is a word we’re going to hear a lot more of in the healthcare industry in 2017. Biosimilars are drugs or biologic medical products that provide an almost identical copy of an original drug, manufactured by another pharmaceutical company. But keep in mind “similar” does not mean “identical”, which means they differ from traditional small-molecule drugs that are consistent as far as dosage, usages, treatment expectations, and side effects.
What makes Biologic drugs different?
Most drugs fall under one of two categories—small-molecule drugs or biologic drugs. Put simply, biosimilars offer doctors, pharmacists, and patients alternative therapeutic options when it comes to treating certain diseases, side effects, and medicine storage. For instance, biologics are unique as far as:
The first difference lies in structure. While small-molecule drugs are as implied by the name, small in structure and synthesized from chemicals in a consistent process that ensures relatively consistent effects each and every time (i.e., aspirin). Biologic drugs, on the other hand, are created from a living cell, such as yeast or bacterium that are extracted from a living system—such as plants or animals (i.e., goats, mice, cows, humans, etc.), which means they’re not only larger and denser in structure, but also often less reliably consistent. Biologics also typically require specific storage (i.e., refrigeration) to ensure effectiveness.
- Wider range of treatments
This can result in inconsistent doses when it comes to treating an array of conditions. However, biologic drugs offer wider range of treatment. For instance, a biologic drug extracted from monoclonal antibodies may be prescribed to help a patient undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer increase their white blood cell count.
Living cells can be a little unpredictable, which makes biologics unpredictable by nature. Unlike generic drugs, which are similar to original drugs with slight variations, biologics are cell-based, which means they can be very complex and prone to error, which can alter function of the drugs within patients.