An industry-sponsored survey of specialty physicians in America revealed that their awareness and perceptions of biosimilar drugs can be lacking in some areas, but they would be interested in learning more about the concept.
Researchers from the Biosimilars Forum surveyed 1201 American dermatologists, gastroenterologists, rheumatologists, nephrologists, hematology-oncologists, and medical oncologists who reported prescribing biologic drugs, and published the findings in the journal Advances in Therapy. The study was conducted from November 2015 to January 2016, which could contribute to the seemingly low levels of knowledge among the participants, since the first FDA-approved biosimilar had just entered the market in September 2015.
Some participants were seemingly confused about what defines a biologic, despite the fact that all participants reported they prescribed biologic drugs. Medical oncologists, for instance, correctly identified a given drug as a biologic 62.8% of the time. Similarly, the vast majority said they have heard about biosimilars, but knowledge of specifics was low.
Around half of respondents from each specialty correctly said that biosimilars had just become available in the United States within the past year, with the exception of rheumatologists, 55.5% of whom thought that biosimilars were not yet available in the country. While 62.3% of respondents knew that biosimilars must be equally efficient as the original drug and 57.2% said the biosimilar must be comparable in safety, over half (55.2%) disagreed that biosimilars were safe.
There was some confusion regarding the term “interchangeable,” which indicates that a biosimilar has demonstrated its safety and efficacy for back-and-forth switching with the original biologic. Four out of 5 respondents did not know that interchangeability would let pharmacists switch between the originator biologic and its biosimilar products.
Respondents also reported concerns about the approval process. Half were knowledgeable of the concept of “totality of evidence” used to assess biosimilars, and just 12% were comfortable with the concept of extrapolation to approve a biosimilar for other indications based on the originator biologic, although this could be due to knowledge gaps on what the term actually means.
Despite these apprehensions, 91% of respondents said they would be open to prescribing biosimilars to their patients after seeing sufficient evidence on switching and indications. They also indicated they would like to learn more about key biosimilars concepts and their potential impact on drug costs and access.
The study authors wrote that the survey results “highlight a significant need for evidence-based education about biosimilars for physicians across specialties.” They plan to conduct a follow-up survey in 2 to 3 years to examine whether awareness and perceptions about biosimilars have improved as new drugs continue to enter the US and European markets.
Cohen H, Beydoun D, Chien D, et al. Awareness, Knowledge, and Perceptions of Biosimilars Among Specialty Physicians. Adv Ther. 2017;33(12):2160-2172.