On May 13, the Food and Drug Administration released a new draft guidance on the data needed to establish that a proposed therapeutic biological product is biosimilar to an approved reference product. This new guidance gives sponsors a roadmap, detailing the procedures needed to demonstrate biosimilarity between a proposed drug candidate and a reference product, and highlighting the types of data needed to support such a demonstration.
According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the pharmaceutical industry, particularly Big Pharma, has decidedly changed course, shifting its R&D focus away from small molecule drugs towards biotech products. Such biotech products are muscling out small molecules’ prior domination of the top 10 drug product sales. For example, in 2012, biotech products accounted for 71% of the revenues generated by the world’s top selling biopharmaceutical products. This remarkable growth mirrors the successful evolution of biotech research over the last three decades. Drilling down further, the Tufts Report notes that monoclonal antibody (mAb) biotech products saw the largest increase in growth over the last decade and now account for almost 60% of the biotech products being clinically developed by the largest pharmaceutical companies.
In a decision of first impression, Judge Maxine M. Chesney of the Northern District of California dismissed Sandoz’s declaratory judgment action against Amgen for lack of jurisdiction. Sandoz had brought its suit on June 24, 2013 seeking a ruling that its biosimilar version of Amgen’s patented arthritis drug Enbrel (etanercept) would not infringe and that the patents are invalid. Amgen moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, alternatively, to decline to exercise Declaratory Judgment jurisdiction.
California Senate Bill 598, which would prohibit pharmacists from substituting biosimilars for a prescribed biologic, unless the biosimilar is an interchangeable product which would not need physician consent or if the biosimilar exceeds the cost of the brand-name drug, recently passed the California State Assembly by a vote of 58-4. The bill which has since passed the Ca. State Senate by a vote of 30-2 has yet to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown and has prompted extensive lobbying efforts both in support of and against its passage.