News in brief: Infliximab biosimilars are equivalent; New vertebroplasty MBS item; Hydroxychloroquine donation destroyed

Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021

Infliximab biosimilars are equivalent: review

Biosimilar brands of infliximab are equally effective as the originator molecule, well-tolerated, safe, and comparable in terms of immunogenicity when used in rheumatic conditions, an Australian review has found. The literature review led by Queensland University researchers included 10 randomised clinical trials of biosimilar enrolling 2308 patients, and 13 observational studies, enrolling 4453 patients in conditions including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). According to the authors, the evidence from RCTs showed that the efficacy of biosimilars was comparable to that of reference product, and likewise biosimilars were all well-tolerated and had similar safety profiles to the reference product. Observational cohort studies involving patients switched from the reference product to a biosimilar reported comparable efficacy at maintaining disease remission, and also revealed stable disease activity and no significant changes in the inflammatory markers after the switch. The findings are published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.

New vertebroplasty MBS item

A new MBS item is being introduced on 1 November for the treatment of recent spinal fractures by vertebroplasty. Item 35401 will cover the treatment of a painful thoracolumbar vertebral compression fracture of the thoracolumbar spinal segment (T11, T12, L1 or L2) with a duration of less than three weeks, where symptoms are poorly controlled by opiate therapy and there is MRI evidence of acute vertebral fracture. According to Medicare, the service is to be performed by interventional radiologists, and practitioners should be registered with and provide relevant service data to the Vertebroplasty MBS Service Monitor managed by the Interventional Radiology Society of Australasia.

Hydroxychloroquine donation destroyed

Five million doses of hydroxychloroquine donated to the nation in 2020 by controversial billionaire Clive Palmer were destroyed after being left unclaimed at an airport warehouse, according to report in the Guardian Australia. Freedom of Information documents obtained from the federal Department of Health by the newspaper show that health minister Greg Hunt accepted a donation 22 million doses of hydroxychloroquine from Palmer, who wanted it used to treat COVID-19. However the documents show the TGA refused to take responsibility for an additional one tonne consignment of hydroxychloroquine that arrived at Melbourne airport  from China in August 2020. The Guardian says the drug sat unclaimed in a warehouse for eight months before being set for destruction. The previous 22m doses accepted for the national stockpile remain unused as they were not TGA registered for use in conditions such as lupus, the Guardian report says.

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