On February 4, 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) held a Workshop entitled: “Follow-On Biologics Workshop: Impact of Recent Legislative and Regulatory Naming Proposals on Competition“. The Workshop was well attended and sought to solicit a variety of views on the marketing of follow-on biologics, currently referred to as “biosimilars” under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (“BPCIA”).
Briefly, the BPCIA defines “biosimilarity” as “[T]he biological product is highly similar to the reference product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components” and “there are no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product in terms of the safety, purity, and potency of the product.” A biosimilar is submitted as a 351(k) application, which must contain, among other things, information demonstrating that the biological product is biosimilar to a reference product based upon data derived from analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical study or studies, unless FDA determines, in its discretion, that certain studies are unnecessary. To meet a higher standard of “interchangeability,” an applicant must provide sufficient information to demonstrate biosimilarity, and also to demonstrate that the biological product can be expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient and, if the biological product is administered more than once to an individual, the risk in terms of safety or diminished efficacy of alternating or switching between the use of the biological product and the reference product is not greater than the risk of using the reference product without such alternation or switch. According to the BPCIA, interchangeable biosimilar products may be substituted for the reference product without the intervention of the prescribing healthcare provider.
As explained by Edith Ramirez, FTC Commissioner, many state legislatures have either passed or are considering legislation to explain how to handle biosimilars that are not interchangeable (and sometimes including interchangeable biosimilars), which may affect competition for the market at this juncture before even one biosimilar has been approved. In particular, many of the state laws or bills include provisions for prescriber notification of possible biosimilar substitution for the referenced innovator biologic product. FDA and other regulatory bodies are still considering universal nomenclature for biosimilars, which may either create the same or similar names for biosimilars and their referenced innovator biologic products. The FTC sees similarities between biosimilars and how generics were first perceived and opportunities to either facilitate or hinder acceptance of biosimilars in the market that they wanted to explore in this Workshop.