Biosimilars for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Biosimilars are medications that we use to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. These are proteins that we inject under the skin or we have to infuse them through an IV.
The reason we have to do that is they are proteins – you can’t swallow them because they would be digested. So very different from traditional medications that we use for rheumatoid arthritis.
Biosimilars are very similar types of medications, they have the same protein structure as original biologics. The difference is because they are a large molecule, in the manufacturing process there may be some minor changes in the structure of the protein. As a result we need to make sure that these biosimilars have the same efficacy and no increase in side effects of the medications.
Biosimilars have to go through a kind of similar kind of registration process that the biologics have, so they need to go through a process where the FDA in the United States and Health Canada here looks at these medications, and appropriate studies are done to ensure that they’re as safe and effective as the original biologic.
The big advantage of the biosimilars or the biologics is the price. They’re going to be less expensive than the original biologics. The expectation in rheumatoid arthritis patients is they would receive the same range of services as if they would have received the same biologic.
Those services would include access to infusion clinics if they needed infusion, some financial assistance, assistance with the pharmacy and other assisstancies they might need.
In treating rheumatoid arthritis with the biosimilars, you want to make sure you check with your rheumatologist, and perhaps your pharmacist, to make sure it’s the right medication for you.
Presenter: Dr. John Wade, Rheumatologist, Vancouver, BC
Local Practitioners: Rheumatologist