Biogen's Ian Henshaw: Why Global Biosimilars Week Is Important for Improving Adoption

Ian Henshaw, senior vice president and global head of biosimilars at Biogen, describes the importance of awareness campaigns like the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association's Global Biosimilars Week and how these initiatives can be leveraged to improve biosimilar adoption and acceptance.

Ian Henshaw, senior vice president and global head of biosimilars at Biogen, recapped the launch of Biogen's and Samsung Bioepis's ranibizumab biosimilar as well as how leveraging campaigns like the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association's Global Biosimilars Week can help boost biosimilar adoption rates.


Biogen and Samsung Bioepis had a big year with the launch of Byooviz, the first ophthalmology biosimilar and the first ranibizumab biosimilar to enter the US market. What has been your initial experience with this launch and how do you expect this market will play out in 2023?

Henshaw: So, from the voice of the customer, we've heard excitement about Byooviz approval and launch into the marketplace. The ophthalmology market in this area, [Medicare] Part B in the US, is probably characterized by a lot of private equity groups that run ophthalmology clinics. Plus, there's a group of new operators that are operating in retinal specialist centers with maybe 1 or 2 physicians. And so you get 2 different aspects of the business.

From that perspective, it's been well received. In terms of insurance coverage, again, insurance coverage is being positive in terms of speed to getting that coverage applied. And then, I think in terms of the programs that we've got in place, like patient services, etc, it's been an overall positive response.

Why are companies like Biogen so focused on investing in biosimilar development, especially in newer markets, such as ophthalmology and rheumatology?

Henshaw: Firstly, when people look at biosimilars from a company perspective, they're looking at it from an opportunity for revenue or to facilitate efficiencies around production or to deploy their technical knowhow, particularly in biotech. So, what you get is a number of different synergies. But on top of that, if you think about how we are relieving costs out of [Medicare] Part D or Part B, and then you're also putting new products into these areas, it has a very sort of balanced response with payers and providers of care in these areas. So, that's number one. What you're providing is savings and an opportunity for those savings to be used, either in new innovations or improving patient access.

What we've seen, specifically on patient access and with reference to our business in Europe, we see a range of up to doubling of access, but generally, the overall access is about 2 times over the period. And then another aspect that we believe we've seen in some cases and in some countries is an overall improvement in patient pathway care.

So, if you look at it through those 2 points, you actually get a much more holistic response. [With our] investment in that, the balance in terms of the pipeline, our mission in neurology, and also our mission to try and transform more lives, we get a good response.

Recently, Global Biosimilars Week passed, for which The Center for Biosimilars was a media partner. What is the importance of having this annual campaign and how can it be leveraged to improve global perception and adoption of biosimilars?

Henshaw: So, I think the singular fact that I found most interesting about Global Biosimilars Week was that there are over 600 biosimilars approved around the world. And that was a global context. If you boil that down to what's happening in the US, or you boil it down to what's happening in Europe, you get various stages of that journey.

Of the 89 approvals in Europe, it's covered 92 molecules. Now, the news is there are more than 100 different biologics being used in the marketplace to date. So, there is scope for more expansion. That's good. It's good for patients. It's good for potential savings on overburdened health care systems, whether it's pandemic- or age-related or just new areas that they want to invest in or treat. And you get this sort of dynamic, which I think we've only just started to appreciate, of the potential or the ability for biosimilars to unlock the potential in health care, as well as provide bigger access to patients around the world.