Biosimilars in Oncology: Reality Could Bite the Copycats, Dog Potential Major Savings

When biologics go off-patent, copycat products could lower oncology expenditures by the millions, if not billions. But the discounts and future market share are far from certain.

In a classic Dick Van Dyke Show episode, the late Mary Tyler Moore accidentally gets her big toe trapped in a hotel bathtub faucet spout, and the elderly handyman summoned to extricate her is a bit dotty. “Tell me,” he inquires of the discreetly bathrobed Moore while measuring her other big toe, “is that toe similar to the one that’s stuck in the pipe?”

The line gets a big laugh. But the idea—that the qualities of an unexamined thing may usefully be deduced by confirming its likeness to something we have studied—is a serious one that may soon save millions in cancer care. The reason? The expected wide use of biosimilars. Says Ali McBride, clinical coordinator for hematology/oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center: “Biosimilars may allow for the introduction of lower-cost drug therapy, providing increased access for patients.”

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