Some drugs are made from biological products (biologics) such as antibodies or proteins. Biologics come from all sorts of living things, such as animal and plant cells and even bacteria.
Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) are breast cancer treatment drugs made from biologics (which are made from antibodies). Other drugs, such as vaccines and insulin, are also made from biologics.
A biosimilar is a “generic-like” version of a drug that contains biologics.
Biosimilars are a different from generic drugs because they contain biologics. A generic drug has the exact same active chemical ingredients as the original drug. It’s not possible to make an exact copy of a biologic because it’s a living thing. However, a biosimilar is highly similar to the original biologic drug and works the same way in the body.
The name of a biosimilar includes the name of the original biologic drug. For example, trastuzumab-dkst is a biosimilar to the drug trastuzumab. Each biosimilar also has a brand name.
To be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a biosimilar must work the same way as the original drug and it must have :
At this time, the FDA-approved biosimilars for breast cancer treatment are all biosimilars to trastuzumab (Herceptin).
Other biosimilars are under study for the treatment of breast cancer.
Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a HER2-targeted drug. It’s used to treat early and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancers.
Biosimilars to trastuzumab can also be used to treat early and metastatic HER2-positive breast cancers. They include (in alphabetical order):
Some drugs used to treat side effects of chemotherapy and other breast cancer treatments are made from biologics. Some of these drugs have biosimilars.
For example, some people get a white blood cell growth factor drug to help maintain their blood counts during chemotherapy. These drugs are called filgrastim (Neupogen) or pegfilgrastim (Neulasta).
Tbo-filgrastim (Granix) and pegfilgrastim-jmdb (Fulphila) are the biosimilars to these drugs.
Due to the complex manufacturing process, biosimilars are costly to produce. As more biosimilars become available, costs may go down over time.
It’s unknown how biosimilar costs will affect patients.
Your health care provider can tell you whether a biosimilar drug may be part of your breast cancer treatment plan. If you have questions about a biosimilar, talk with your provider.
Facts for Life: Biosimilars
Questions to Ask Your Doctor: Biosimilars
Biosimilars: What They Are and What You Need to Know
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