A biosimilar drug is “highly similar” to a biologic drug, but not an exact copy of it. And a biologic drug is genetically engineered protein, which is commonly advised for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Unlike other rheumatoid arthritis drugs that affect the entire immune system, biologics work on specific parts that control inflammation.

Biologic drugs are completely different from conventional medicines. Conventional drugs are composed of chemicals and have structures, while biologics are more complex and are made from living materials, such as animal, human, and bacteria cells, according to WebMD.

Doctors often prescribe biologics when you have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and fail to respond to conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Biologics or biosimilars for rheumatoid arthritis include B-cell inhibitors, T-cell inhibitors, interleukin-1 (IL-1) blockers, interleukin-6 (IL-6), or interleukin-17 blockers, Janus kinase inhibitors, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

These biosimilars work by blocking or stopping the production of inflammatory chemicals your body makes.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 28 biosimilars for rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the common examples of biosimilars for rheumatoid arthritis include”

  • Abatacept (Orencia) – T-Cell Blocker
  • Adalimumab (Humira) – TNF Inhibitor
  • Anakinra (Kineret) – Interleukin-1 (IL-1) Inhibitor
  • Certolizumab (Cimzia) – TNF Inhibitor
  • Etanercept (Enbrel) – TNF Inhibitor
  • Golimumab (Simponi, Simponi Aria) – TNF Inhibitor
  • Rituximab (Rituxan) – B-Cell Blocker
  • Tocilizumab (Actemra) – Interleukin-6 (IL-6) Inhibitor

Biosimilars have been proven highly effective for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Also, they are considered cost-effective for most patients with rheumatoid arthritis, especially those who do not respond adequately to traditional drugs, such as DMARDs.

Lately, there has been a rise in interest in biosimilar drugs that are highly comparable to the biologics in terms of safety and efficacy but may generally be lower in price.

However, like all drugs, biologics do have a few limitations. For instance, they may cause some dormant chronic diseases, such as tuberculosis, to flare. Biosimilars are also contraindicated to people with multiple sclerosis or other serious conditions like congestive heart failure. It is always advised to seek medical help before using any biologics or their biosimilars. Do not self-medicate.