Cancer is one of the most expensive diseases to treat and manage, and nearly 20% of patients with cancer and their families spend up to $20,000 each year in total out-of-pocket costs.1 Fortunately, there is an emerging therapeutic category that holds the potential to increase accessibility and support positive outcomes for more individuals diagnosed with cancer. Since the first biosimilar launched in the United States in 2015, these treatments–which are highly-similar versions of approved biologics– have demonstrated their capacity to create cost savings for patients, providers, and the health care industry as a whole. 

As of December 2020, biosimilars are available in 3 different oncologic therapeutic markets and, with increased utilization, have the potential to lower health care costs and diversify treatment options for patients with cancer. Over the past year, we began to see growth for the oncologic biosimilar market and the real potential it can offer. We expect this trend to continue in 2021, and as we head into the new year, it’s important to take note of 3 key contributors to the ongoing success of biosimilars: increased competition, provider acceptance, and regulatory support.

Increased Competition in the Oncology Market Highlights Potential for Savings

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There are currently 20 biosimilars available in the United States. Seven of them launched in 2020, and 5 of those 2020 launches included oncology products. Not only did we experience a significant increase in the number of biosimilars indicated for cancer care in 2020,2 but also the commercialization of 2 of these cancer products (Teva Pharmaceutical’s Herzuma and Merck’s Ontruzant), which turned the trastuzumab market into the most competitive biologic market in the United States. For the first time in the United States, 5 biosimilars are competing against an innovator in 1 market. 

Savings enabled by the presence of biosimilars are modeled to exceed $100 billion in aggregate over the next 5 years.3 In 2021, we expect providers to increase their adoption and utilization of biosimilars, which means the United States will move closer to seeing the entirety of these potential cost savings. 

Projected Provider Uptake Following COVID-19 

In oncology, biosimilars have achieved significant growth in the past year, with biosimilars reaching a 42% share in the bevacizumab market, 38% share in the trastuzumab market, and 20% share in the rituximab market.3 These market share figures are significantly higher and were achieved faster than those of previous biosimilars. ION Solutions–AmerisourceBergen’s group purchasing organization specializing in community oncology–has seen even higher adoption rates within its network of community oncologists, with members adopting bevacizumab biosimilars at 63% unit share and trastuzumab biosimilars at 66% unit share. The staggering 50% faster adoption by ION’s network has been a primary driver in helping control oncology health care costs within the network.4

With increased uptake, biosimilars could decrease costs for both patients and providers by nearly 30%.5 We expect that the potential savings, coupled with the financial pressure that the pandemic has put on the health care system, will fuel increased biosimilar adoption in cancer care within the coming months.