State-of-the-art biosimilar erythropoietins in the management of renal anemia: lessons learned from Europe and implications for US nephrologists

Adrian Covic, Ivo Abraham
International Urology and Nephrology 2015, 47 (9): 1529-39
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), under a strictly regulated pathway, has approved several biosimilar products since 2005, including biosimilar versions of the erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) epoetin alfa since 2007. Subsequent to these approvals, the use of biosimilar epoetin alfa in the management of renal anemia has grown steadily throughout Europe. With the enactment of the US Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, a US Food and Drug Administration regulatory approval process for biosimilars was legalized. Thus, biosimilar erythropoietin products are expected to be available for prescription in the USA by mid-decade, presumably at a price that is competitive with the originator brand-name reference products. In this paper, we describe the status of originator and biosimilar ESAs, review the clinical development and regulatory approval of biosimilar erythropoietins in Europe, and summarize relevant efficacy and safety information of biosimilar erythropoietins in relation to their reference products to provide a background for US nephrologists as they appraise biosimilar erythropoietins as treatment options for renal anemia. Key lessons learned from Europe are that (a) EMA-approved biosimilar erythropoietins have comparable efficacy and safety profiles to their reference product erythropoietin; (b) pharmacovigilance preapproval and postapproval are critical, especially with regard to immunogenicity and vascular thromboembolic events; (c) strict preapproval and postapproval requirements must guide the regulatory pathway for biosimilars; and (d) high-quality manufacturing and production processes must be established to ensure quality biosimilar products. The availability of biosimilar erythropoietins in the USA will provide nephrologists with alternative effective, and potentially more affordable, treatment options for patients with renal anemia.

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