Biosimilar insulins

Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2012 Aug;12(8):1009-16. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2012.688024. Epub 2012 May 15.


Until now most insulin used in developed countries is manufactured and distributed by a small number of multinational companies. Other pharmaceutical companies - many of these are located in countries such as India or China - are also able to manufacture insulin with modern biotechnological methods. Additionally, the patents for many insulin formulations have expired or are going to expire soon. This enables such companies to produce insulins and to apply for market approval of these as biosimilar insulins (BIs) in highly regulated markets such as the EU or the US. To understand the complexity of BIs' approval and usage, scientific and regulatory aspects have to be discussed. Differences in the manufacturing process (none of the insulin-manufacturing procedures are identical) result in the fact that all insulin that might become BIs differ from the originator insulin to some extent. The question is, have such differences in the structure of the insulin molecule and or the purity and so on clinically relevant consequences for the biological effects induced or not. The guidelines already in place in the EU for market approval require that the manufacturer demonstrates that his insulin has a safety and efficacy profile that is similar to that of the 'original' insulin formulation. Recently guidelines for biosimilars were issued in the US; however, these do not cover insulin. Although a challenging approval process for insulins to become BI might be regarded as a hurdle to keep companies out of certain markets, it is fair to say that the potential safety and efficacy issues surrounding BI are substantial and relevant, and do warrant a careful and evidence-driven approval process. Nevertheless, it is very likely that in the next years, BIs will come to the market also in highly regulated markets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / adverse effects
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / standards
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / therapeutic use*
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Drug Approval
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Industry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug Industry* / standards
  • Europe
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / immunology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / standards
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / immunology
  • Insulin / standards
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Patient Safety
  • Quality Control
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Antibodies
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin