(Bloomberg) — Cheaper versions of biotechnology drugs in the U.S. will be distinguished from the expensive brand-name medicine they imitate by attaching a suffix to their generic name, the Food and Drug Administration proposed, a plan that may affect how doctors prescribe the treatments.
Brand-name biologics, which are made from living organisms instead of chemicals like traditional drugs, would also carry a suffix, the agency said in a blog post. The FDA is seeking public comment on the proposal before it issues final guidance.
Doctors typically use generic names — called non-proprietary names, in FDA nomenclature — to prescribe drugs, often leaving it up to pharmacists to decide which company’s products drugmakers choose to hand over to patients. In the traditional world of chemical drugs, brand-name medications and their generic copies carry the same name. For example, Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor is atorvastatin, and all generics go by atorvastatin.
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But since biosimilars aren’t exact copies of their brand-name competitors, a debate has emerged over whether they should have a common name.
The FDA said its proposal would help prevent pharmacists from inadvertently substituting one drug for another when the agency has determined the drugs aren’t interchangeable. It would also make it easier to track the safety of each manufacturer’s drugs, the FDA said.