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Interchangeability between biologics and biosimilars.

Biologics are a special kind of medication used to treat certain conditions. They usually cost a lot and aren’t always available at every pharmacy or covered by every insurance plan. For these and other reasons, medications similar to biologics are being made. They are called biosimilars

Biosimilars aren’t exactly the same as their biologic (also known as the reference product). But, they are ‘highly similar’ to the biologic and have no clinically meaningful differences as compared to their reference biologic. Biosimilars are studied carefully to make sure they work the same way and are as safe as the biologic.  

Because a biosimilar works the same as the biologic, in some cases it may be able to be changed for its reference biologic. For example, if your doctor writes a prescription for a biologic, the pharmacist might be able to change it to a biosimilar, which may costs less. Not all biosimilars are interchangeable, so this is only possible if the biosimilar has been specifically approved as interchangeable

Each state has rules on pharmacy dispensing that may affect a change from a biologic to an interchangeable biosimilar. That means what might be available in one state may not be in another.

The pharmacist can only change from the biologic to its biosimilar without a new prescription if:

  • The biosimilar is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as interchangeable
  • State law allows the change by a pharmacist
  • The doctor has approved a substitution

Changing to a biosimilar can be helpful if:

  • The biosimilar costs you less than the biologic
  • Your insurance only covers the biosimilar
  • The biologic isn’t available at your pharmacy or isn’t covered by your insurance plan

In any case, you can be sure that the biosimilar will work just like the biologic would.

CVS Specialty® can help you stay on track and manage side effects. Our goal is to help you get the best outcomes from your treatment plan. Call us at 1-800-237-2767 to speak to a pharmacist or nurse specially trained in caring for complex conditions and rare diseases. 

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