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The importance of biosimilars in health care

April 30, 2024 |3 minute read time

A woman meeting with a doctor

At CVS Health®, we’re committed to encouraging the adoption of high-quality, affordable medications, including biosimilar drugs. Access to biosimilars — medications that can treat many chronic and severe conditions — is critical for patients who may need them. Biosimilars can treat everything from specific types of cancers to diabetes, and they present one of the biggest opportunities for controlling drug costs in today’s health care system.  

A new report authored by Sree Chaguturu, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health, explains how biosimilar drugs help make treatments more affordable. It also showcases how Cordavis™, a CVS Healthspire™️ company, focused on manufacturing high-quality biosimilars, is improving patient access to these life-changing treatments and bringing innovation to health care.

Read the full report (PDF)

Common questions about biosimilars

To understand biosimilars, we must start with biologic drugs. Biologics are therapies that use living material as a source (like human or animal cells). These therapies can help treat or manage conditions like arthritis, psoriasis and rare diseases.  

Biosimilars are like generic versions of biologics. As their name suggests, biosimilars are highly similar to their reference biologic, which is the original drug to which the biosimilar compares. Due to the complexity of biologics, exact replicas cannot be made — but biosimilars are almost identical.

Biosimilars will make specialty therapies even more accessible to patients by reducing costs for innovative therapies — similar to how generic drugs have helped reduce medication costs. Although the U.S. biologics market comprises 46% of today’s total drug spend, only about one to three precent of patients are treated by biologics. Clearly, there are opportunities to bring down the costs of these highly focused treatments.

Having competitive options is a way to drive significant savings for patients and the industry at large.

Biosimilar drugs have a different molecular size and a more rigorous research and development process compared to generic drugs. In much the same way that generic drugs are used as alternatives to brand-name drugs, biosimilars offer quality, safe and effective treatment options with no clinically meaningful differences from their reference products.

Biosimilars must meet rigorous safety and quality measures to demonstrate there is no clinically meaningful difference from their reference biologic. This helps to ensure both the biosimilar and reference biologic have similar effects.

In 2023, we founded Cordavis, a wholly owned subsidiary of CVS Health, to help bring a pipeline of biosimilar and other pharmaceutical products to the market that patients and providers can count on. Cordavis assesses the clinical efficacy and safety of all co-manufacturers and works with developers who are best able to consistently supply quality product at a competitive price.

We are already working with Sandoz to co-manufacture Hyrimoz, a biosimilar product for Humira, which treats inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. At launch, the list price of the Cordavis Hyrimoz will be more than 80% lower than the current list price of Humira. As of April 1, CVS Caremark® removed the biologic Humira from its standard drug preference lists for major national commercial plans. Humira biosimilars will be covered.

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