Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the approval of a “biosimilar” Trastuzumab to help make breast cancer treatment more affordable for patients globally.
Biosimilar drugs are derived from living sources rather than chemicals. Biosimilars are approved according to the same pharmaceutical quality standards that apply to all medicines.
The WHO shared in their statement that the drug Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody, is an essential treatment for about 20% of breast cancers. It has shown high efficacy in curing early stage breast cancer and even some cases of more advanced disease. However, the average cost of the drug is around $20,000 a year making it difficult for most patients around the world to afford the treatment. The WHO-approved biosimilar version of the drug has the same effectiveness but costs about 65% less. This major cost difference gives hope to many seeking affordable access to treatment. Previously, other biosimilar versions of Trastuzumab have come to market, but none have passed qualification standards set forth by the WHO.
“WHO prequalification of biosimilar trastuzumab is good news for women everywhere,” said WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Effective, affordable breast cancer treatment should be a right for all women, not the privilege of a few,” he added.
“We need to act now and try to avoid more preventable deaths,” said WHO assistant director general for medicines and health products Dr Mariângela Simão. “The availability of biosimilars has decreased prices, making even innovative treatments more affordable and hopefully available to more people.”