US monthly costs for biosimilars 'substantially higher' than Germany or Switzerland, JAMA research finds
As the global biologics market is expected to hit nearly the half-trillion-dollar mark this year, new JAMA research points to the importance of timely biosimilar entry, particularly as fewer biosimilars are entering the US than in Europe, and as monthly treatment costs for biosimilars were “substantially higher” in the US compared with Germany and Switzerland.
Among the three countries, biosimilar market share at launch was highest in Germany, but increased at the fastest rate in the US, the authors from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law wrote in JAMA Network Open today.
“In the US, uptake was highest for bevacizumab (36%) and lowest for infliximab (3%) 1 year after market entry,” they noted. “Uptake in Germany was highest for adalimumab (48%) [adalimumab biosimilars in the US don’t launch until next year] and lowest for insulin lispro (2%), whereas in Switzerland, uptake was highest for rituximab (25%) and lowest for insulin glargine (1%) 1 year after market entry.”
While noting that biosimilar uptake increased steadily across all three countries from 2011 to 2020, the study only evaluated 15 biosimilars and six biologics for the US, 52 biosimilars and 15 biologics for Germany, and 28 biosimilars and 13 biologics for Switzerland.
The relative lack of experience so far in the US, as the pathway for biosimilars wasn’t introduced in the US until 2012, also isn’t the cause for the gaps in price between the European countries and the US.
“We also made a sub-analysis comparing costs for biosimilars and biologics approved in all three countries (see Fig 4B, page 6) and the results hold,” co-author Kerstin Vokinger told Endpoints News. “Thus, the higher costs cannot be explained with the BPCIA created in 2012.”
In the conclusion, they called for negotiations in the US to prohibit exclusionary contracts in order to allow biosimilars to enter the market sooner and at lower costs, “which could result in lower healthcare costs and improved patient access.”
The introduction of interchangeable biosimilars may also be key to leveling the playing field and driving down costs, FDA leaders said recently. Although only 22 of 39 approved biosimilars have launched in the US, a recent report from Amgen approximates that they’ve created around $21 billion in savings over the last six years.