Press release 9 March 2017

EBE, EFPIA and IFPMA have today launched a position paper entitled “Considerations for physicians on switching decisions regarding biosimilars”.


Switching describes a physician’s decision to exchange one product that a patient receives for another. With the introduction of biosimilars, physicians may be encouraged to switch patients from an original biologic (reference product) to any of its biosimilars (or vice versa) in order to reduce costs.

The considerations take into account the unique characteristics of biologic medicines, which are capable of treating patients with highly complex diseases – and caution that switching stable patients is still nascent in practice. The three associations underscore the central role of the physician – together with the patient – in the decision-making process when it comes to providing the appropriate treatment for both naïve and disease-stable patients.

This means that:

  • the prescribing physician must always retain the option to designate which biological product should be dispensed. Treatment decisions must be made first on the basis of clinical judgment and then on the overall value proposition offered by individual medicines; and
  • the treating physician, in consultation with the patient, should make any  decision to switch patients from one biological product to another. Where switching occurs, it must be accompanied by adequate clinical monitoring and the patient must be informed appropriately at all times.

All biologics approved by regulatory authorities (e.g. the European Medicines Agency) in compliance with relevant WHO guidelines are safe, effective and of high quality. Moreover, a biosimilar must be compared in terms of quality, safety and efficacy with its reference product before it qualifies for approval. However, there is no regulatory requirement for individually approved biosimilars for the same reference product to be compared with each other. Consequently, this type of data may not be available to stakeholders when evaluating a switch between two biosimilars of the same reference product.

The complex nature of biological molecules, which are often used to treat patients who have multifaceted, chronic diseases, means that any decision to switch should be made on a case-by-case basis and must be patient-, disease- and product-specific.  It is vital for a physician to balance the level of evidence against the level of risk or uncertainty in each particular case. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate.

Biosimilars have an important role to play in promoting the sustainability of healthcare systems. Used appropriately, biosimilars will provide health systems with the financial headroom to maintain investment in new technologies and therapies. Our industry recognises its responsibility to support efforts that instill confidence in physicians and patients in the use of biosimilars, including through the promotion of appropriate clinical use and contributing to informed decision-making.

About EBE:

European Biopharmaceutical Enterprises (EBE) represents the voice of biopharmaceutical companies of all sizes in Europe and is a specialised group within the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Established in 2000, EBE is recognised as the leading biopharmaceutical association in Europe.

About EFPIA:

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) represents the pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe. EFPIA is the voice on the EU scene of 1,900 companies committed to researching, developing and bringing to patients new medicines that will improve health and the quality of life around the world.

About IFPMA:

IFPMA represents research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations across the globe. The research-based pharmaceutical industry’s 2 million employees research, develop and provide medicines and vaccines that improve the life of patients worldwide. Based in Geneva, IFPMA has official relations with the United Nations and contributes industry expertise to help the global health community find solutions that improve global health.

Media contacts:

EBE Barbara Freischem Executive Director│ Tel: +32 2 62 62 564

EFPIAFaraz Kermani│ Communications Manager (External Affairs)Tel: +44 (0) 1799 218 706 │ Mobile: +44 (0) 7885 390 335

IFPMASadia KaenzigManager, Communications Tel: +41 22 338 32 49 Mobile: +41 79 513 44 42 │




The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) represents over 90 innovative pharmaceutical companies and associations around the world. Our industry’s almost three million employees discover, develop, and deliver medicines and vaccines that advance global health. Based in Geneva, IFPMA has official relations with the United Nations and contributes industry expertise to help the global health community improve the lives of people everywhere. For more information, visit

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Media Contact

Elliot Dunster