ASBM Commends FDA for Approval, Clear Naming of First Biosimilar

For Immediate Release:
March 6, 2015

WASHINGTON – The Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines today commended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its approval of the first biosimilar to be available for sale in the U.S. market. Approval of Novartis’ Zarxio (filgrastim-sndz), biosimilar to Amgen’s Neupogen (filgrastim), was widely expected following the January recommendation by an FDA advisory panel that it be approved for all five indications for which the reference product is approved.

“The approval of the first biosimilar is a milestone for the agency and a significant positive development as patients and their physicians will have more treatment options,” said ASBM chairman Harry L Gewanter, MD. “We are particularly encouraged by the FDA’s recognition that a biosimilar is a different medication, distinct from its reference product, and that the distinguishable name given to this first biosimilar (filgrastim-sndz) allows healthcare providers to clearly differentiate it from the innovator medicine. The FDA is known around the world as a leader in patient safety, and distinguishable names are an affirmation of its commitment to transparency and accountability, and will make a difference in the safety of biologic medicines around the world. ASBM strongly encourages FDA to continue to use distinguishable naming for all future biosimilars it approves”, Gewanter added.

ASBM joined with more than 70 patient and physician groups in authoring a letter to FDA in August 2014 encouraging distinguishable naming of biosimilars. The FDA has stated, however, that the distinguishable naming of filgrastim-sndz should not interpreted as reflecting the agency’s support for a comprehensive policy of distinguishable naming for all biologics, including biosimilars. Such guidance on biosimilar naming is expected to be forthcoming shortly.

While “substantially similar” to the innovator product filgrastim, filgrastim-sndz has not yet received a designation of “interchangeable” by the FDA. Such a designation would indicate that switching between it and its reference product should produce the same effects in patients while posing no additional risks. Under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCIA), which lays out the biosimilar approval process, only biosimilars designated “interchangeable” may be substituted by a pharmacist without physician involvement.

One area of concern, however, is in the labeling of Zarxio. “The labeling of Zarxio does not state that it is not interchangeable with its reference product, what data were supplied to earn approval is not specified, nor whether or not the product was studied in all the indications for which it was approved. If we are to ensure that biosimilars are to be accepted and successful, patients and physicians need clarity in both labeling and naming.” Gewanter said.

About the Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines
The Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines (ASBM) is an organization composed of diverse healthcare groups and individuals from patients to physicians, biotechnology companies that develop innovative and biosimilar medicines and others who are working together to ensure patient safety is at the forefront of the biosimilars policy discussion.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Reilly
Executive Director
Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicines
Phone: 202-222-8326