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Pharmaceutical preparations

Biosimilar anticancers get support from British oncology pharmacists

The British Oncology Pharmacy Association (BOPA), a charity of cancer specialist pharmacists, has backed the use of biosimilar monoclonal antibodies (MABs) as part of cancer treatment.

In a statement, published on 5 February 2017 in an attempt to clarify where these new products fit into cancer care and current pharmacy practice, BOPA said: “MABs are therapeutically equivalent to the originator molecules and can and should be used for all commissioned indications provided pharmacovigilance safeguards are in place, e.g. branded prescribing.”

Steve Williamson, chair of BOPA and head of chemotherapy at the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, comments: “There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding the use of biosimilar MABs for cancer, with lots of misconceptions and perhaps a lack of clear understanding of where these medicines fit.

Steve Williamson, chair of the British Oncology Pharmacy Association

Source: Courtesy of Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson says cancer patients should be reassured that biosimilars are safe and effective to use to treat their cancer

“Cancer patients will need reassurance that biosimilars are safe and effective to use to treat their cancer, so pharmacists as experts on medicines need clear understanding of how they can and should be used and the BOPA guidelines will help UK pharmacists managing the challenges [around the of introduction of these medicines],” he adds.

BOPA also says it will work with NHS cancer vanguards, NHS commissioners and others to “facilitate early adoption of biosimilar monoclonal antibodies into the NHS”. 

The first MABs for the treatment of cancer — intravenous biosimilar rituximab for the treatment of haematological malignancies and biosimilar trastuzumab for the treatment of breast cancers  — are due to be introduced into the UK later in 2017.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202317

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Supplementary images

  • Bottles/packets of rituximab
  • Steve Williamson, chair of the British Oncology Pharmacy Association

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