Author: Judith A. Johnson, Specialist in Biomedical Policy
A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances. Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is similar but not structurally identical to the brand-name biologic made by a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. In contrast to the relatively simple structure and manufacture of chemical drugs, biosimilars, with their more complex nature and method of manufacture, will not be identical to the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both biologics and chemical drugs.