Biosimilars

Biosimilar insulins are not yet available, but you may have heard them being mentioned.

‘Biosimilar’ is a term used to describe a medicine that is designed to be very similar to existing ‘biologic’ medicines. All insulins are biologic medicines. Some of the analogue insulins above will soon come off patent which means other companies are then free to produce ‘biosimilar’ versions of them. You can read more about biosimilars in our FAQ document.

Biosimilars: frequently asked questions

When a biologic drug comes off patent, the door is open for other companies to produce similar drugs – biosimilars. This is a similar process to when small molecule drugs come off patent and companies start to produce ‘generic’ versions of the same drug. However, because biologic drugs are more complex, producing identical ‘generic’ biologic drugs is impossible, which means that the new term biosimilar is used instead.

Why should people with type 1 diabetes be interested in biosimilars?

‘Biosimilar’ versions of different sorts of insulin are likely to become available soon, as the exclusive patents on some forms of insulin are about to expire.

What does this mean for my treatment?

It means that your doctor has more types of insulin to offer you. You or your doctor may think it is a good idea to try a new biosimilar insulin. Doctors should always prescribe insulins by their brand name to ensure that the correct insulin is given – biosimilars are no exception. There should be no clinically significant differences between the original insulin and its biosimilar, and the drugs will only be approved by regulators on this basis. As with any change in your treatment regimen, it should be something that you and your health team agree on, and you will need to pay especially close attention to your glucose levels for a few weeks to make sure the change is not disrupting your glucose control. If you experience any difficulties using the new insulin, your doctor can switch your prescription back to your usual insulin.

Are we doing any research on biosimilars?

No. This area of research is well-funded by the pharmaceutical industry, so we can prioritise funding other areas of type 1 diabetes research.

Where can I find out more?

The Association of the British Pharmaceutic Industry a has produced a helpful guide to biologic and biosimiliar medicines and an FAQ document.