Panelists at the DIA Biosimilars Conference discussed how biosimilars can help address health care disparities and why patient notification for switching to biosimilars must be handled with caution.
Patients who are about to be switched from a reference product to a biosimilar need to receive adequate and transparent notification prior to the switch to ensure biosimilar adoption and that biosimilars, panelists argued.
The panelists, who presented at the DIA Biosimilars Conference in Arlington, Virginia from September 20, 2022 to September 21, 2022; outlined how better patient notification and education can encourage biosimilar uptake and address health disparities by providing patients better savings and access to treatments.
Murray Aitken, MBA, executive director of IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, mentioned how the promise of biosimilars savings could help keep a health system running and serve as an avenue to address high drug prices and ensure medication adherence.
“At a very big level, we know that biosimilars have a critical role to play in bringing lower cost biologic therapies to more patients and thereby, contribute to the sustainability of the health system level, as well as advancing population health and individual patient outcomes by making those biologic therapeutics available to more people. I think, in that context, biosimilars also have an important role to play in addressing disparities that we see in individual patient outcomes or groups of patients,” said Aitken.
Aitken noted how the savings potential of biosimilars has grown from $25 billion in the last 5 years to $70 billion in the next 5 years, saying that the market share of newer biosimilar molecules is increasing to a higher level at a faster rate.
“At the end of the day, the longer-term success of biosimilars as a meaningful part of health systems does rely on multiple companies willing to make the investments and take the risks to bring forward the next generation of biosimilars,” Aitken concluded.
Terry Wilcox, co-founder and CEO of Patients Rising, gave examples of 2 patients who had received notification of a coverage change in the mail. Although the first dealt with the switch and was fine, the second stressed out and missed their infusion date as they tried to figure out what had happened, leading to poorer clinical outcomes and higher medical bills as they tried to get back on their regimen.
“One of the biggest things that I think that we can do from a patient perspective and adopter perspective is figure out how we can show patients that savings and give doctors the tools to help show patients those savings," Wilcox said. "Right now, everything's very much in a black box and nothing's transparent about it. And so, if you want patients to go along [with biosimilars], then you have to show them what the benefits are for them. And a scary letter in the mail is not the answer."
Wilcox suggested that more physicians, pharmacists, and nurses need to have discussions with patients about biosimilars and the possibility that the product they are currently receiving could change. This is especially important as more interchangeable biosimilars enter the market, and patients and/or their providers may not be notified that a switch has been made depending on state laws in place.
Anna Hyde, MA, vice president of advocacy and access at the Arthritis Foundation, described the complexities of switching patients with chronic conditions who have been stable on the reference product for many years, which could become even more contentious as up to 10 biosimilars referencing Humira (adalimumab) are expected to enter the market and shake up coverage options in 2023.
“There's an emotional component there that I cannot overemphasize. So, even if you tell a patient that something is clinically the same, or whatever words that you want to use to make a patient understand, they're essentially taking the same medication. If the patient knows that it's technically something different, they don't want to ‘rock the boat’,” Hyde explained.
Additionally, Hyde emphasized that every patient may be on their own journey with their condition and suddenly switching to a biosimilar because of a coverage change can be very stressful for patients who have had to try several medications before finding one that works for them.
Hyde concluded, “Meeting them where they fit and where they are doing with their respective disease is critical to getting [biosimilar] uptake from the bottom up.”