Abstract: Background: Biosimilars are expected to emerge as a rapidly growing segment of the biopharmaceutical industry. However, the biosimilar industry faces multiple challenges and obstacles in developing and marketing these complex products. Divergent regulatory framework in emerging countries adds to repetitive trials and increased cost of biosimilar development, delaying the approval process. Due to such roadblocks, healthcare systems and patients are yet to realize the full benefits of biosimilars. Objectives: The aim of this exploratory study was to specifically identify the challenges faced by the industry in emerging countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Turkey and Mexico (BRICS-TM), pertaining to biosimilar development and the regulatory approval process. In particular, this study aims to understand the perceptions of industry on the barriers faced by them in terms of complexity, costs for biosimilar development and time-to-market for biosimilar product. Methods: A semi-quantitative questionnaire was designed based on secondary research. A total of 93 industry personnel and representatives from 14 trade associations from the BRICS-TM countries with 15-year minimum experience were identified and invited to take part in the study and participate in interviews, which were recorded verbatim. Data processing and analysis was carried out; descriptive statistics were used for quantitative data and content analysis was employed to generate themes for qualitative data. Results: Of the 107 biopharmaceutical industry and trade association representatives invited to participate in the study, respondents from 33 biopharmaceutical companies agreed to take part and underwent the interviews. The industry personnel perceived biosimilar guidelines and approval processes as being protracted and in a state of evolution. The absence of an abridged approval pathway limited effectiveness of the regulatory process. The biggest hurdles in the development of biosimilar dossiers were the sourcing of the reference biological product and expectations around confirmatory clinical trials by the agencies. The non-comprehensive implementation of a stepwise approach resulting in unnecessary toxicity studies was also reported as a major challenge. The authors recommend further primary research with BRICS-TM regulatory agencies in order to propose a simplified pathway for development and approval. Conclusions: Lack of standardized biosimilar development criteria and regulatory convergence across BRICS-TM agencies has led to challenges in multi-country development programmes for these medicines, in turn impacting the ability of industry to launch newer and more affordable biosimilars.
- Original Research Article