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Learn about affordable 'biosimilar' treatment options

GEHA | March 5, 2019

Like generics, biosimilars may offer more affordable treatment options.

If you are using an injectable biological prescription drug, a new kind of biological product called a "biosimilar" might be an option for you.

Biosimilars are not the same as generic drugs, but like generics, biosimilars may offer more affordable treatment options to patients. A biosimilar, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are as safe and effective as the biological product they replace.

Biosimilars can help patients with a wide range of conditions, including autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, plaque psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis. They can also help patients with certain types of colorectal, lung, breast, and other types of cancer.

The FDA has approved several biosimilars, and some are already on the market. All biosimilars:

  • Meet the FDA’s rigorous standards for approval
  • Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities
  • Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

“Specialty medications are expensive. The biosimilar movement creates better pricing and greater savings,” says GEHA Director, Pharmacy and Specialty Programs, Chessa Nyberg. “Because these are new, it’s a little confusing for members as to what biosimilars are and if they are safe. We want to help our members, and their health care providers, gain a better understanding of these important new medications and how they can help.”

This GEHA guide to biosimilars helps explain biosimilar medications and provides a list of some biosimilar alternatives. For more detail, download this FDA Fact Sheet.

Similar to how the introduction of generic drugs in the United States has led to significant cost savings, biosimilars have the potential to improve public health and reduce the cost of health care. If you are currently using a biological prescription, or are prescribed one in the future, talk to your health care provider to see if you can benefit from a more affordable biosimilar drug alternative.