BACKGROUND: Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) are biological molecules approved for the treatment of anemia associated with chronic renal failure. Biosimilars were licensed for use in Europe in 2007.
AIM: This study aimed to compare the safety profile of biosimilars with respect to the reference product in a nephrology setting.
METHODS: A prospective study was conducted in four Italian regions between 1 October 2013 and 30 June 2015. The study population included patients aged ≥ 18 years undergoing hemodialysis and treated with epoetins as per the clinical practice of the participating centers. The two comparison cohorts included patients treated with either an originator or a biosimilar epoetin alfa. Each patient was followed up until occurrence of any safety outcome of interest (grouped into three major categories), switch to a different ESA product, transplant or peritoneal dialysis, death, or end of the study period, whichever came first.
RESULTS: Overall, 867 subjects were included in the study (originator: N = 423; biosimilar: N = 444). Biosimilar users were older than originator users (median age of 76 vs 64 years, respectively), more frequently affected by arrhythmia (29.3 vs 22.5%), and less frequently candidates for transplantation (3.8 vs 18.2%). Cox-regression analysis showed no increase in risk of safety outcomes in biosimilar users, even after adjusting for confounding factors: 1.0 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.7-1.3) for any outcomes; 1.1 (95% CI 0.7-1.8) for problems related to dialysis device; 0.9 (95% CI 0.6-1.5) for cardio- and cerebro-vascular conditions; 0.9 (95% CI 0.6-1.5) for infections.
CONCLUSION: This study confirms the comparable safety profiles of originator and biosimilar epoetin alfa drugs when used in patients receiving dialysis.