Given that biosimilars are agents that are similar but not identical to the reference biopharmaceutical, this study aims to introduce and describe specific issues related to the economic evaluation of biosimilars by focusing on the relative costs, relative effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of biosimilars. Economic evaluation assesses the cost-effectiveness of a medicine by comparing the costs and outcomes of a medicine with those of a relevant comparator. The assessment of cost-effectiveness of a biosimilar is complicated by the fact that evidence needed to obtain marketing authorization from a registration authority does not always correspond to the data requirements of a reimbursement authority. In particular, this relates to the availability of adequately powered equivalence or noninferiority studies, the need for comparative data about the effectiveness in a real-world setting rather than the efficacy in a structured setting, and the use of health outcome measures instead of surrogate endpoints. As a biosimilar is likely to be less expensive than the comparator (eg, the reference biopharmaceutical), the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of a biosimilar depends on the relative effectiveness. If appropriately designed and powered clinical studies demonstrate equivalent effectiveness between a biosimilar and the comparator, then a cost-minimization analysis identifies the least expensive medicine. If there are differences in the effectiveness of a biosimilar and the comparator, other techniques of economic evaluation need to be employed, such as cost-effectiveness analysis or cost-utility analysis. Given that there may be uncertainty surrounding the long-term safety (ie, risk of immunogenicity and rare adverse events) and effectiveness of a biosimilar, the cost-effectiveness of a biosimilar needs to be calculated at multiple time points throughout the life cycle of the product.
Keywords: biopharmaceutical; biosimilar; cost-effectiveness; economic evaluation; reimbursement.