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Alex Fulton

Alex Fulton has been working in the wellness field for more than 20 years. She has written extensively about integrative medicine, herbalism, supplements and other topics related to holistic health. Alex also focuses on issues related to women's health, from menstruation to menopause. She has collaborated with physicians, midwives and functional medicine practitioners to promote natural approaches to health care for women. She has a BA in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Biosimilars Basics

Biosimilars Basics

Biosimilars work the same as biologics, but cost a lot less. Here are some basic facts about these drugs.

Medication Safety

Biosimilars Basics Infographic. Click image to view PDF

What is a biosimilar?

Biosimilars are drugs made from living material, such as bacteria or plant cells. They are modeled after another type of drug called a biologic that is also made from living material. 

  • The biologic that a biosimilar is modeled after is called the reference product. 

Why do people use biosimilars?

Biosimilars can be used to treat a variety of health issues, including:

  • Chronic skin diseases, such as psoriasis 

  • Chronic bowel disease 

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • Certain kidney conditions

  • Multiple sclerosis 

  • Macular degeneration 

  • Certain cancers

Biosimilars are:

As safe as biologics

As effective as biologics

Less expensive than biologics

How does a biosimilar get FDA-approval?

By being shown to work in the exact same way as the reference product. 

Are biosimilars the same as generic drugs?

They are similar but not the same. 

Generics, made from chemicals, are the exact same as brand name drugs. 

Biosimilars, made from living materials, are very similar to the reference product.

Why aren’t they the exact same? 

Biologics and biosimilars are both made from living materials, so both have some variability. 


Some biosimilars are interchangeable with their reference products.  

This means you don’t need a new prescription to substitute the biosimilar for the biologic.  

(Biosimilars that aren’t interchangeable need a new prescription.)

Are biosimilars an option for you? Ask your healthcare provider. 

This resource was created with support from Sandoz, a HealthyWomen Corporate Advisory Council Member.


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