Study Underscores Need for Educating Community Oncologists on Biosimilars

Research presented at the 22nd Annual International Meeting of The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research demonstrates gaps in physicians’ education on biosimilar agents. 
Kelly Davio
June 02, 2017

Research presented at the 22nd Annual International Meeting of The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research demonstrates gaps in physicians’ education on biosimilar agents.

Researchers from Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions sought to assess community oncologists’ understanding of biosimilars by surveying a group of 61 community-based US oncologists and hematologists during a live meeting. The clinicians—who came from practices of all sizes and from across the United States—were asked to respond to specific multiple-choice questions about their perceptions of biosimilar agents. 

The results of the survey showed that, when asked to describe their familiarity with biosimilars, many physicians reported a lack of clarity about the products: 

  • 25% of respondents said that they lacked familiarity with biosimilars
  • 45% stated that their practice partners lacked knowledge of biosimilars 
  • 23% said that they had no knowledge of the regulatory process for biosimilars
  • 19% believed the regulatory pathway for biosimilars to be the same as the pathway for other drugs or biologics 

The survey also revealed that, with respect to safety and efficacy considerations, many clinicians appear receptive to biosimilars, though some seek more information before they will consider prescribing them:

  • 78% of respondents believed that biosimilars’ efficacy would prove comparable to that of reference products
  • 90% did not associate the reduced costs presented by biosimilars with reduced safety 
  • 36% said that they would treat biosimilars like generics with automatic substitution 
  • 46% required additional evidence concerning biosimilars before they would consider prescribing a biosimilar for cancer treatment 
  • 45% reported that familiarity with a product’s manufacturer would be critical in making the decision to prescribe a biosimilar 

Cost savings appear to be an important factor in clinicians’ willingness to prescribe biosimilar agents rather than reference products: 

  • 57% of clinicians said that reducing costs by prescribing biosimilars is “very important”
  • 79% reported that a price discount of 11% to 30% would be necessary in order for them to consider prescribing a biosimilar over a reference product 
  • 8% sought a discount greater than 40% before they would consider prescribing a biosimilar 

The survey also asked clinicians to consider patient case examples for 5 conditions, and to report how likely they were to prescribe a biosimilar over a reference product to treat each condition. The reported likelihood of the respondents to prescribe biosimilars is as follows:

  • Bevacizumab for metastatic colorectal cancer: 75%
  • Rituximab for chronic lymphocytic leukemia: 75%
  • Trastuzumab for metastatic breast cancer: 69%
  • Rituximab for non-Hodgkin lymphoma: 60%
  • Trastuzumab for breast cancer in an adjuvant setting: 39%

The researchers concluded that, while clinicians appear receptive to the idea of prescribing biosimilar products in oncology, significant gaps in education pose a barrier to physicians’ acceptance of these products. It will be critical, the researchers suggest, to overcome this educational barrier in order to increase the uptake of biosimilars and to realize cost-savings in patient treatment. 


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