Is Australia ready for biosimilars?
The biosimilars market is potentially the single fastest growing pharmaceutical sector with an estimated worth of US$67bn in global sales by 2020. This market generally refers to larger molecule, biological, protein-based pharmaceuticals which have lost its patent. This has stimulated the emergence of non-conventional pharmaceutical investors such as Fujifilm and Samsung as well as host countries such as Brazil, Mexico, China, India, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, which view biosimilars as a key macroeconomic driver of growth.
Internationally, the European Medicines Agency has led the regulation of the quality, safety and efficacy of biosimilars; however, many countries have developed their own biosimilar regulatory frameworks. Despite the similarity of these with European guidelines, differences do exist across jurisdictions and have implications for cross-jurisdictional registration and regulation. The consideration of biosimilar regulation, however, demands attention beyond quality, safety and efficacy. The potential implications of extended patent protection, international trade and globalisation require a congruent policy approach to their regulation.
Notwithstanding the fact that Australia is a relatively small pharmaceutical market and that there are only 14 biosimilar products currently approved for use, Australia’s geographical proximity to pharm-emerging countries and its trade relation with the major pharmaceutical markets have positioned Australia in a unique position to influence international development and regulation of biosimilars. Australia’s National Medicines Policy (2000) potentially provides the foundation for a partnership approach to biosimilar regulation, minimise duplication of regulatory efforts while at the same time fostering a viable pharmaceutical industry.
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