“Biosimilars” are equivalent versions of monoclonal antibodies that have previously been FDA approved to treat various diseases. Because antibodies are more complicated than simple drugs like acetaminophen and aspirin, etc., these drugs are not chemically identical to the original drug. The main advantage of biosimilars is the reduction in cost to the healthcare system and potentially to patients. Patients should not feel that they are getting a cheaper/less effective agent, because these medications require extensive testing to show that they perform as well as the original drug and have comparable levels of safety in terms of manufacturing. In the case of rituximab, the approval of Ruxience (rituximab-pvvr) should provide additional opportunities for cost savings for patients with B-cell malignances such as most types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and CLL.
– Brian Hill, MD, PhD