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What is medical interchangeability and how does it apply to Biosimilars?

In partnership with The European Commission
What is medical interchangeability and how does it apply to Biosimilars?
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Euronews
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Have you ever heard of the concept of 'interchangeability' in the medical field? We went to the European Medicines Agency to understand what it is and what it means for EU patients and health systems.

Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed to revise and reform the Pharmaceutical legislation governing the bloc.

The revision aims to achieve the following main objectives:

  1. Make sure all patients across the EU have timely and equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable medicines
  2. Enhance the security of supply and ensure medicines are available to patients, regardless of where they live in the EU
  3. Continue to offer an attractive and innovation-friendly environment for research, development, and production of medicines in Europe

Biosimilar medications, due to their nature and composition, are very similar to their name-brand drug counterparts. While not molecularly identical to the 'originator' medications, they offer the same results. Their goals are to be interchangeable with the name brand drug or other biosimilars designed for similar use.

But what does 'interchangeability' mean in the field of medicine?

We met with the European Medicine Agency's Chief Medical Officer, Steffen Thristrup, who gave us some insights:

"Interchangeabilitymeans that you can substitute or switch one product with another.

When we talk about the interchangeability of biosimilars, we are talking about patients who have already been treated with the reference product, and they can be switched to a biosimilar version of the reference medication. Or, they could even switch between different types of biosimilars with the same reference product.

Ultimately, patients could begin treatment on a biosimilar instead, so that they don´t have to go via the originator product. The big advantage is saving money.

There is no therapeutic advantage because these products are the same. They have the same efficacy and the same safety (as the reference medicine). But there is an opportunity, because they are typically available at a lower price, so the healthcare system can save money, or they can maybe even offer the same treatment to more patients at the same cost."

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