Pharmacists are in favour with biosimilars having the same nonproprietary name as the reference biologic

By William Chin, PhD, Project Manager, EUCRAF

In the first week of January 2015, Sandoz announced that US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) recommended approval of its investigational biosimilar filgrastim, Zarxio. 3 months later, the FDA approved Zarxio, making it the first biosimilar product approved in the United States.

However there are still unresolved issue especially on the naming convention of biosimilars. For example, the use of different international nonproprietary name (INN) would cause confusion among prescribers and could potentially cause difficulties in the adoption of biosimilars. On the other hand, the use of single INN for both the reference and biosimilars would cause inappropriate product switching. 

A recent paper entitled "Assessment of pharmacists' views on biosimilar naming conventions" was published in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy. Fernandez-Lopez S et al. conducted a survey among the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) members with the primary aim to determine the impact of identical or different non-proprietary names on pharmacists’ confidence in substituting interchangeable biologics.

The authors reported that the majority (74.6%) of pharmacists indicated that they would be confident in substituting an interchangeable biosimilar with the reference product if both shared the same active ingredient or nonproprietary name of the reference biologic and 25.3% of pharmacists were confident in substituting when the nonproprietary name is not shared with the biologic.


1. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2015 Mar;21(3):188-95. Assessment of pharmacists' views on biosimilar naming conventions. Fernandez-Lopez S1, Kazzaz D, Bashir M, McLaughlin T.

2. FDA News Release, 6 March 2015, FDA approves first biosimilar product Zarxio.