Community Oncologists Divided on the Value of Biosimilars

During the Community Oncology Alliance Payer Summit, held October 29-30, 2018, The Center for Biosimilars® had the opportunity to sit down with several oncologists to discuss their opinions on and experiences with biosimilars.
 
Samantha DiGrande
November 09, 2018
During the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) Payer Summit, held October 29-30, 2018, The Center for Biosimilars® had the opportunity to sit down with several oncologists to discuss their opinions on and experiences with biosimilars.

When asked how he feels about the upcoming availability of anticancer biosimilars as treatment options, Lalan Wilfong, MD, executive vice president of Quality Programs at Texas Oncology, was hopeful. “I think most practices are looking forward to the development of biosimilars, similar to the generic market when generics were introduced that’s when prices actually started falling for cancer therapy,” said Wilfong.

Kashyap Patel, MD, CEO of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care echoed Wilfong’s statement, but also explained that he believes biosimilars have a central role to play in the US healthcare system as a whole, not just in cancer care. Patel speaks from personal experience, as he presented data at ASCO’s Quality Care symposium that found that “7% of total savings of the oncology care model came from switching to biosimilar [granulocyte colony-stimulating factor] G-CSF, [filgrastim]” in his own health system.

However, not all oncologists were in agreement about the value of biosimilars. When asked if she believes biosimilars have a role in bringing down drug costs, Kavita Patel, MD, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said “No. I think that there are limited numbers of biosimilars, and I don’t think that the biosimilars are priced at such a degree that—when you have drugs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars—having a biosimilar even for something with a large clinical indication, it’s like a fraction of the overall drug spend.”

Although biosimilars have the potential to bring down costs, she conceded, some factors in the marketplace need to be addressed first before they begin generating significant savings.

“I think we need more biosimilars, which the FDA has signaled, and we need more biosimilars that are priced at such a delta to make an appreciable difference,” she said. “There are some pretty ‘hot’ oncology drugs that have a biosimilar available, but then the way the practice might have already set up their pharmacy or their network, they’ve already kind of locked in to certain manufacturers, making the biosimilar less attractive.”

One specific need reiterated by each oncologist was that, in order for physicians to feel more comfortable prescribing biosimilars in their own practice, education specifically about the safety and efficacy data associated with the products is key going forward. 
 

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