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Bradford R. Hirsch and Gary H. Lyman

The introduction of alternative versions of biologic products, also known as biosimilars, into the United States market has been gaining increasing visibility as patents for many agents are nearing expiration. Unlike generics, which are regulated under the Hatch-Waxman legislation passed in 1984, the approval process for biosimilars in the United States has not been defined. In 2004, the European Union established a regulatory pathway for these agents, and the FDA is now following suit. The economic implications are large, with $66.9 billion spent on the top 20 biologics in 2009. Of the top 10 biologics, 6 are routinely used in oncology. As the regulatory requirements are debated, several critical issues must be resolved. The most obvious is that the agents must be shown to be comparable to the original biologic they intend to replace. Knowledge of pharmacokinetic parameters alone will not be adequate, but the amount of clinical data required by the FDA remains unclear. The regulations will define the ease with which a biosimilar can be brought to market, and the associated costs of trials will influence the ultimate price of the medications. Balancing the needs of the relevant stakeholders is critical to ensure patient safety while controlling costs, improving access, and encouraging innovation. This is not an easy balance to strike.

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Bradford R. Hirsch and Amy P. Abernethy

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Bradford R. Hirsch and Gary H. Lyman

Biosimilars, also known as follow-on biologics, continue to be an area of great interest in oncology because of the potential cost savings and improved access related to their use, yet significant confusion remains regarding their introduction in the United States. The regulatory and legal hurdles remain poorly defined, and companies producing branded products have been battling their introduction. The European Union provided a pathway for approval in 2004, with various agents reaching the market since that time. It is important to understand the nuances of the discussion and experiences and for clinicians and policy makers to take an active part in defining the role of biosimilars. Several outstanding questions remain, including the degree to which physiochemical, biologic, quality, and clinical end points must be demonstrated in clinical trials compared with the use of analytic data for approval; whether off-label indications should be embraced; and the regulatory rules around areas such as marketing and interchangeability. This article highlights tbo-filgrastim, an agent currently marketed as a biosimilar in Europe, because its pending introduction in the US market provides insights into the potential of these agents.

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Michaela A. Dinan, Bradford R. Hirsch and Gary H. Lyman

Treatment-associated neutropenia continues to represent the most common dose-limiting toxicity of cancer chemotherapy. It often leads to fever and infection, prompting hospitalization and occasionally resulting in serious morbidity, and even mortality, despite modern broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment and supportive care. Neutropenia and its complications may also lead to chemotherapy dose reductions, treatment delays, or early treatment termination, compromising disease control and the potential for cure. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology recommend administration of primary prophylaxis with a myeloid growth factor in patients receiving regimens associated with a high risk for febrile neutropenia, and consideration of prophylaxis in patients receiving lower-risk regimens who have other risk factors that might place them at higher risk for febrile neutropenia. Although these agents have been shown to be effective and safe in numerous randomized controlled trials, they are expensive and contribute significantly to increasing health care costs. Regulatory agencies and guideline organizations do not currently address the issue of cost. However, with the relentless increase in health care use and current efforts to reform health care, it has become increasingly important to assess both the cost and the net benefit of interventions related to an episode of care in order to compare the overall value of therapeutic options. This article defines and discusses the intersection of quality, costs, and value in the context of prophylactic myeloid growth factor use in patients with cancer receiving myelosuppressive chemotherapy.