Developing the Totality of Evidence for Biosimilars: Regulatory Considerations and Building Confidence for the Healthcare Community

BioDrugs. 2017 Jun;31(3):175-187. doi: 10.1007/s40259-017-0218-5.


Biosimilars are highly similar versions of approved branded biologics. Unlike generics, they are not exact replicas of reference products. Minor differences between biosimilars and reference products in some aspects are expected; likewise, biosimilar products will differ from each other. The objective of this review is to discuss the challenges associated with the development and approval of biosimilar products that are unique because of their complex structure and specialized manufacturing processes, which can impact not only efficacy but also immunogenicity and safety. Regulatory guidelines recommend a totality-of-evidence approach focused on stepwise development that involves demonstration of structural similarity and functional equivalence. Structural and functional characteristics of the proposed biosimilar are compared with the reference product; similarity of these functions forms the foundation of the biosimilar development program, including potential animal studies, a human pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics equivalence study, and a clinical study to confirm similar efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity. The clinical study should be performed in a sensitive population using appropriate endpoints to allow detection of any clinically meaningful differences between the biosimilar and the reference product if such differences exist. In conclusion, development of biosimilars is focused on the minimization of potential differences between the proposed biosimilar and reference product and the establishment of a robust manufacturing process to consistently produce a high-quality biosimilar product.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / chemistry*
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / pharmacology
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / therapeutic use
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Drug Approval / methods
  • Humans


  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals