Biologic Naming Update

The FDA has released “Nonproprietary Naming of Biological Products Guidance for Industry.”  This document includes guidance for both 351(a) products (original biologics) and 351(k) products (biosimilars).  Biosimilar suffixes have four letters and are devoid of meaning.  These suffixes are designed for tracking, adverse event reporting, and to aid in prescribing. Related biological products and biosimilars may have different indications for use, but pharmacists do not typically receive information on a patient’s disease state to know which manufacturers’ product to pick.  The biologic suffixes help by allowing prescribers to issue prescriptions using the correct suffix to cover the exact indication needed for the patient.

Reactions to the FDA’s guidance have been mixed.  Originally, the FDA proposed to apply the suffixes retroactively to existing biologic products.  On March 7, 2019, FDA released additional guidance on naming conventions for biologics.  The full guidance is available at: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm632870.htm.

There are several important considerations for pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacies, and payers.

  • Existing biologic products that are currently FDA approved will not be assigned four-character suffixes – this is a reversal of the FDA’s previous guidance on this topic
    • Any new biologic or biosimilar introduced in the future would receive a four-character suffix.
  • New biologic products, including insulins and growth hormones (among others), will receive a four-character suffix.

PHSI’s view is that “nothing” will be sorted before “something”, so products that do not have a suffix may be listed before/above products that do have a suffix.  This means that the non-suffix originator products will likely appear before biosimilars in pharmacy systems and EMRs when showing chemical names, which may lead prescribers and pharmacists to see them before/above the biosimilar products for product selection purposes.

Beyond the chemical name field, there are EHR implications due to the RxNorm[1] listings for biologic products.  Biosimilars do not link to the original brand product in RxNorm and subsequently in electronic transactions that rely on RxCUI.  For example, each of the three available infliximab products (brand and two biosimilars) have different Generic RxCUIs[2] because of the 4 letter suffixes added to the “generic” name of the biosimilars.  So those biosimilar versions of infliximab do not link to the originator brand for product selection purposes.

From the compendia perspective, it will be interesting to see how product selection options are displayed for biologic products in the future.  Wolters Kluwer has announced that they are offering a file to help their customers determine potential substitution groups for biologic products.  Currently, compendia listings for biosimilar products do not directly link those products with the original biologic product of the same molecule.  In other words, originator biologics and biosimilars do not share a GPI or GCN.  Offerings like a substitution grouping file would provide additional insights to pharmacies, payers, prescribers, and EHRs regarding product selection options for biologics.

As biologic and biosimilar products evolve, more discussions will occur around how to properly identify specific biologic product selection options for prescribers.  For more information on the pharmacy, payer, and prescriber implications, contact PHSI.

 

[1] RxNorm, from the National Library of Medicine, “provides normalized names for clinical drugs and links its names to many of the drug vocabularies commonly used in pharmacy management and drug interaction software, including those of First Databank, Micromedex, Gold Standard Drug Database, and Multum. By providing links between these vocabularies, RxNorm can mediate messages between systems not using the same software and vocabulary.”  More information available at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/umls/rxnorm/.

[2] RxCUI stands for “RxNorm concept unique identifier.”  “Everything in RxNorm receives an RXCUI, which is unique to that concept. An RXCUI is essentially the “name” of a concept that computers read and understand.”  More information available at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/umls/rxnorm/overview.html.

Posted May 2019

 

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