News from the FDA/CDC

FDA approves biosimilar adalimumab


There are “no clinically meaningful differences” between Amgen’s biosimilar adalimumab (Amjevita) and AbbVie’s branded product Humira, the Food and Drug Administration noted it its Sept. 23 announcement of Amjevita’s approval.

Although Amjevita (adalimumab-atto) is expected to cost less than Humira, Amgen has not released price information or a launch date pending ongoing litigation with AbbVie over intellectual property rights, an Amgen spokeswoman said.

Amjevita carries most, but not all, of Humira’s indications, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, plaque psoriasis, and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Humira also is indicated for hidradenitis suppurativa and uveitis, which were recently added to labeling.

The products carry an identical black box warning of tuberculosis and other serious infections, as well as lymphoma and other malignancies “reported in children and adolescent patients treated with [tumor necrosis factor] blockers including adalimumab.” As with Humira, “the most common expected adverse reactions with Amjevita are infections and injection site reactions,” the FDA said. Both products are approved in 20 mg/0.4 mL and 40 mg/0.8 mL prefilled injections, but Humira also has a 10 mg/0.2 mL option.

Amjevita was unanimously recommended for approval by an FDA review panel in July. Although “the biosimilar pathway is still a new frontier,” it’s likely to “enhance access to treatment for patients with serious medical conditions,” Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the agency statement.

The approval follows the FDA’s approval of biosimilar infliximab (Inflectra) in April 2016 and biosimilar etanercept (Erelzi) in August 2016. Inflectra has not hit the U.S. market yet, but the European experience with biosimilar infliximab – generally positive – may give an indication of how Amjevita will fare in the United States. It’s perhaps a third or more less expensive than the original product (Remicade) and often used for new starts. There is uncertainty, however, about switching patients already established on Remicade, especially when it’s forced by cost issues.

Interchangeability is a concern in the United States as well. The FDA is working on the issue but has not yet released guidance, and the agency was careful to note in its statement that Amjevita was “approved as a biosimilar, not as an interchangeable product.” Biosimilar adalimumab, meanwhile, is under review in Europe, according to an Amgen statement.

The FDA approved Amjevita after reviewing structural and functional characteristics, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics data, clinical immunogenicity data, and other clinical safety and effectiveness data that demonstrated similarity to Humira, including two phase III trials for plaque psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

An AbbVie spokesperson said the company “anticipated Amgen’s product would be approved,” but noted the ongoing litigation.

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