Biosimilars Can Decrease Costs: But by How Much?

Biosimilars are moving into the breast cancer treatment space, and have potential to bring costs down, but the hard numbers are still to be determined.

Biosimilars are poised to play a larger role in cancer care, especially as they have potential decrease costs, according to Francisco J. Esteva, MD, PhD, director, Breast Medical Oncology Program, and research professor, department of pathology, NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

To-date, the FDA has approved multiple biosimilars to trastuzumab (Herceptin) in the breast cancer space:

  • MYL-1401O (Ogivri; trastuzumab-dkst)
  • CT-P6 (Herzuma; trastuzumab-pkrb)
  • SB3 (Ontruzant; trastuzumab-dttb)
  • PF-05280014 (Trazimera; trastuzumab-qyyp)
  • ABP 980 (Kanjinti; trastuzumab-anns)

The drugs are approved to treat patients with HER2-overexpressing breast cancer as well as HER2-overexpressing metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma, with the exception of CT-P6, which is only indicated in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer.

“Because they are equivalent [to the reference product] in terms of efficacy, they will have to compete in terms of cost. I don't have any concerns about using a trastuzumab biosimilar as long as it has been shown to be as safe and effective as the original product,” Esteva said in an interview with OncLive, a sister publication of Oncology Nursing News.

Before being approved, biosimilars are thoroughly tested to ensure that they are similar in efficacy and safety to the reference product, which, in this case, is trastuzumab. These products are widely used in Europe, Esteva said, though he mentioned that there may be some apprehension here in the United States — especially when it comes to monoclonal antibody biosimilars like those for trastuzumab.

“There's a little bit more anxiety when we talk about biosimilars for therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. However, from what we've seen in other countries, [biosimilars] will be used [more in the United States in the future],” Esteva said.

Once these agents are more widely used, cancer care prices will decrease in the United States, though Esteva is not sure by how much. If it were anything like in Europe, he explained, we could see about a 30% decrease in costs. Money saved could go into the research and development of new drugs, according to Esteva.

“We’re going to have to balance the budget a little bit [if we want to continue to develop new drugs]. We have to keep in mind that these are expensive medications; biologics require significant technology [to develop],” he said, emphasizing that biosimilars are not as inexpensive to make as genetic medications.

“The [drugs are still going to be] expensive, and there is a limit to how much [biosimilars can bring that cost] down. However, I believe there will be significant use for them in the future,” Esteva said.

A version of this article appeared on OncLive as, “Biosimilars Expected to Become More Widespread in US Oncology Market.”