WHO launches first biosimilar medicine to treat Breast Cancer

On December 18, 2019, the World Health Organization launched its first biosimilar medicine to treat breast cancer. The WHO intends to make the expensive, life-saving treatment affordable for women all over the world.

Highlights

WHO launched a biosimilar medicine “Trastuzumab” in order to treat breast cancers. It is an antibody that shows high efficacy in curing early stages of breast cancers. It was included in the WHO Essential Medicines List in 2015.

Significance

In women, breast cancers are the most common form of cancers. Around 2.1 million women are affected by breast cancers (2018 UN data). Treatment of breast cancer using “Trastuzumab” is an essential treatment for about 20% of breast cancers. WHO also estimates that by 2040 the number of diagnosed breast cancers will reach 3.1 million.

Essential Medicines of WHO

The Essential Medicines according to the WHO, are the medicines that satisfy priority health care needs. It was launched in 1977 and updated once in two years. The list includes medicines for both adult and children. The current list was published in April 2019.

Biosimilar medicines

Biosimilar medicines are produced from biological sources like cells and not from synthesized chemicals. They are important to treat cancers and other non-communicable diseases. They are less expensive and give same effectiveness as that of generic medicines. The trastizumab is already in use in several markets. But this is the first time, WHO is approving the medicine.

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