Although the availability of generic oncology drugs allows access to contemporary care and reduces costs, there is international variability in the safety of this class of drugs. In this Series paper, we review clinical, policy, safety, and regulatory considerations for generic oncology drugs focusing on the USA, Canada, the European Union (EU), Japan, China, and India. Safety information about generic formulations is reviewed from one agent in each class, for heavy metal drugs (cisplatin), targeted agents (imatinib), and cytotoxic agents (docetaxel). We also review regulatory reports from Japan and the USA, countries with the largest pharmaceutical expenditures. Empirical studies did not identify safety concerns in the USA, Canada, the EU, and Japan, where regulations and enforcement are strong. Although manufacturing problems for generic pharmaceuticals exist in India, where 40% of all generic pharmaceuticals used in the USA are manufactured, increased inspections and communication by the US Food and Drug Administration are occurring, facilitating oversight and enforcement. No safety outbreaks among generic oncology drugs were reported in developed countries. For developing countries, oversight is less intensive, and concerns around drug safety still exist. Regulatory agencies should collaboratively develop procedures to monitor the production, shipment, storage, and post-marketing safety of generic oncology drugs. Regulatory agencies for each country should also aim towards identical definitions of bioequivalence, the cornerstone of regulatory approval.
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