Biosimilars still need to be approved by the FDA for safety and effectiveness before they can be used in patients. The heavily regulated, rigorous FDA process ensures that if a biosimilar doesn’t work as well or is less safe than the parent drug, it won’t get approved. As of 2021, there are a handful of biosimilars that have already been approved by the FDA for breast cancer treatment.
Examples of common biosimilars in breast cancer treatment
1. Trastuzumab/Herceptin and its five biosimilars
Trastuzumab (brand name Herceptin) is a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat HER2+ breast cancers. The most recent—Amgen’s trastuzumab biosimilar—was approved by the FDA in 2019.
2. Filgrastim/Neupogen and its three biosimilars
Filgrastim (brand name Neupogen) stimulates bone marrow to make more white blood cells in order to better fight infection after a round of chemotherapy.
3. Pegfilgrastim/Neulasta and its four biosimilars
Pegfilgrastim (brand name Neulasta) serves the same infection-fighting purpose as Filgrastim, but has a longer duration.
What breasties need to know about biosimilars…
Biosimilars were created in order to improve access to valuable medicines and targeted therapies. They are also produced to give patients options!
Your treatment plan should always be made in tandem with your doctor. When deciding on a treatment plan, it’s important to know your options and advocate for yourself. And that’s exactly what biosimilars are—another option in your arsenal. There are a few things to consider if you or your doctor are thinking about a biosimilar:
- Biosimilars can be less expensive because a robust market for a drug type drives down the cost.
- Biosimilars can have different and sometimes fewer side effects than the parent drug. If you’re struggling with a debilitating side effect in your treatment, you should talk to your doctor about trying out a biosimilar.
- If you do switch to a biosimilar, your treatment might be a little longer for the first few appointments. Most doctors increase a patient’s observation time after administering a biosimilar (the amount of time you have to stay there after treatment) because there is a small risk of immunogenicity or an adverse immune reaction.
For more information, talk to your doctor about biosimilars and whether or not they might be an option for you.