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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2004 Dec;30(6):703-13.

Generic low-molecular-weight heparins: some practical considerations.

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Department of Pathology, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


It is now widely accepted that various low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) exhibit specific molecular and structural attributes that are determined by the type of manufacturing process used. For example, enoxaparin, which is prepared by benzylation followed by alkaline hydrolysis of unfractionated heparin (UFH), exhibits a double bond at the nonreducing end and the presence of a unique bicyclic structure namely 1,6 anhydromanno glucose or mannose, or both, at the reducing end. Similarly, the other LMWHs, such as dalteparin, nadroparin, tinzaparin, and parnaparin, exhibit specific structural characteristics that may contribute to their own unique biochemical and pharmacological profiles. These unique features may not exhibit any major influence on the routinely determined anti-Xa and anti-IIa activities. However, these may have an impact on the pharmacokinetics and other biological actions such as the interactions with growth factors, blood components, and vascular cells. This is the reason for the initial caution for the noninterchangeability of the anti-Xa adjusted dosing of the different LMWHs. Although the nonanticoagulant biological effects of these drugs are poorly understood at this time, they are now recognized as contributing significantly to the overall therapeutic effects of these drugs. Because some of these drugs have proved to be effective in the management of cancer-associated thrombosis and exhibit improvements in mortality outcome, these LMWHs may also produce several other effects by modulating inflammatory processes, apoptosis, and other regulatory functions related to cellular functions at different levels. Thus, the interactions of these LMWHs with antithrombin and heparin cofactor II are not the only determinants of their biological actions. Release of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI), regulation of cytokines, nitric oxide, and eicosanoids contribute to their individuality. Such properties are not only dependent on the oligosaccharide sequence and consensus sites but also depend mainly on microchemical and structural attributes in these drugs. European Pharmacopoeia (EP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have developed guidelines to characterize these agents in terms of their molecular and biological profile. Regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMEA) consider each of these drugs as distinct pharmacological agents. This has prompted the requirement for product-specific clinical data for the approval of their use in various clinical indications. There is a clear concern regarding the development of potential generic versions of branded products and the submissions by generic manufacturers for the regulatory approval of generic interchangeability that refers to the substitution of an apparent chemically identical and bioequivalent versions of the branded LMWHs. Currently, there are no regulatory guidelines or consensus opinions on the acceptance of generic versions of the branded products. Because the LMWHs represent not only a biological entity but also product-specific molecular and structural attributes, the acceptance of a generic version must be based on clearly defined guidelines stipulating minimal molecular and structural, biological, and clinical validation requirements. It is therefore to be stressed that each of the LMWHs is a distinct drug entity that characteristically exhibits a product-based therapeutic spectrum in different thrombotic and nonthrombotic disorders. Thus, until the establishment of valid regulatory guidelines for the generic interchangeability of the commercially available LMWHs is completed, generic substitutes are not recommended.

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