FDA approves epoetin alfa biosimilar to treat anemia


The Food and Drug Administration has approved epoetin alfa-epbx (Retacrit) as the first biosimilar to epoetin alfa (Epogen/Procrit), a treatment for anemia brought on by chronic kidney disease, chemotherapy, or use of zidovudine.

The biosimilar product is also approved to reduce the chance of red blood cell transfusion before and after surgery.

FDA’s approval, issued on May 15, is based on review of structural and functional characterization, animal study data, human pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data, clinical immunogenicity data, and other safety and effectiveness information showing that the epoetin alfa-epbx is biosimilar to the reference product epoetin alfa. By approving epoetin alfa-epbx as a biosimilar, the FDA is saying that there are “no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity, and potency” from epoetin alfa.

The agency’s approval comes almost a year after the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 14-1 to support approval of the biosimilar. The FDA had rejected the application in 2017, citing manufacturing issues at a facility in Kansas, before ultimately approving the product in 2018.

The biosimilar product must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide with information about uses and risks and carries a boxed warning about an increased risk of death, heart problems, stroke, and tumor growth or recurrence.

The biosimilar product is marketed by Hospira Inc., a Pfizer company.

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