Biosimilar Knowledge is Essential to Modern Pharmacy

A panel of experts discusses the rising class of biological agents and why clinical pharmacists need to deepen their knowledge.

Clinical pharmacists can play an important role in educating consumers about biosimilars, but they need to familiarize themselves with these products, said an expert panel recently.

“Clinical pharmacists are in a unique position to provide appropriate patient and provider education. There’s also an increased impact by pharmacists in managing the formularies with multiple biosimilars available,” Antony Mato, MD, MSCE, said.

To do this, they need to know the difference between different biologics, which represent the fastest growing therapeutic class of drugs. In 2017, an estimated $120.1 billion was spent on biological medicines, up from $76.9 billion in 2013, according to a Forbes analysis.

The panel said clinical pharmacists may be more familiar with small molecule drugs.

Indeed, a recent study by the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners revealed that pharmacists feel they lack knowledge when it comes to comparing the efficacy of biosimilars with originator products (74.4%), switching patients to biosimilars from originator products (74.4%), and understanding the safety of biosimilars (73.3%).

Limited financial support, heavy workloads, and poor educational resources were identified as challenges to expanding their knowledge of biosimilars.

“For small-molecule drugs, the brand originator versus the generic, it’s very easy to re-create these identical copies with a chemical synthesis. We have these raw materials that we know the chemical formula for, so we can make these copies,” Tim Peterson, PharmD, BCOP, said, in the panel discussion.

Biologics are developed from recombinant DNA using a vector inserted into a host cell. They can be very large molecules with high molecular weights. This means that there are differences in amino acid sequences, protein aggregation and folding, and variability between manufacturers in processing.

For the full story on the panel discussion, visit Pharmacy Times.