Anton Franken, MD, PhD, endocrinologist, discusses how to communicate with patients who are going to be switched to biosimilar insulin.
How do you address patient concerns about switching to biosimilar insulin?
The biosimilar insulin is equally effective and safe. As are the other insulins. For instance, if you used in the past insulin from company A, and you were switched to B because of other things, no one complained about it. Now we have the biosimilar and everyone says "switching for insulin?" It’s not necessary to be worried about it. It's the same. You have no immunogenicity, not with insulin. Insulin is a safe drug.
It's not the insulin, it’s also the device that plays a role. Each insulin company has its own device. So some people are reluctant to switch, because then they have to use another pen, another device. That’s why it’s important that the diabetic nurse educates the patient about the switch, and that the doctor has enough time to explain why he’s switching [the patient's drug].
For the patient, it’s difficult, because price is for her or him less important,* because as a patient, in diabetes, you are chronically ill. You use one drug for many years, so if you are satisfied with one insulin and one pen, why should you switch?
“What’s in it for me,” the patient asks, and that’s difficult to answer. It’s not only the price, but maybe through innovation we develop better devices, and we assure the patient that no shortage will appear when they have the biosimilar.
*In the Netherlands, patients are subject to much lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, including insulin, than in the United States.