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Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors are widely used biologics for the treatment of several chronic inflammatory diseases. The launch of anti-TNF biosimilars has introduced the possibility of non-medical switching between originator biologics and their biosimilars. However, the potential clinical and patient-reported consequences of non-medical switching remain largely unknown, as much of the evidence comes from poorly or uncontrolled real-world evidence (RWE) studies that often have an element of bias and nonstandardized outcome measures. To appropriately evaluate the safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity of non-medical switching from an originator to its biosimilar, we propose that seven key study design elements should be considered when assessing the existing evidence: studies should be (1) randomized and double-blind, (2) adequately controlled, and (3) adequately powered; include (4) multiple switching, (5) an assessment of immunogenicity, and (6) adequate follow-up duration; and (7) report individual patient-level outcomes. This systematic review assessed the robustness and consistency of the current non-medical switching evidence, with a focus on TNF inhibitors. A comprehensive literature search (January 2012–February 2018) identified 98 publications corresponding to 91 studies (17 randomized controlled trials and 74 RWE studies) describing non-medical switching from a TNF inhibitor originator to its biosimilar. When assessing the totality of this evidence, none of the non-medical switching studies conducted to date were found to use all seven of the key design elements, and the absence of these elements dilutes the robustness of the data. Furthermore, discontinuation rates varied widely among studies (0–87%), suggesting heterogeneity and inconclusiveness of the current efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity evidence, particularly at an individual patient level. Therefore, patients should not be indiscriminately switched from an originator TNF inhibitor to its biosimilar for non-medical reasons. Switching decisions should remain between the treating physicians and their patients and be made on a case-by-case basis, relying upon robust scientific evidence.
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