Biosimilar companies may do themselves a disservice if they produce education materials that don’t address the needs of clinicians or blatently self-promote, according to Kathy Oubre, chief operations officer at Pontchartrain Cancer Center of Louisiana.
More effort is needed to educate nurses, patients, and physicians about biosimilars in order to promote uptake, according to Kathy Oubre, chief operations officer at Pontchartrain Cancer Center of Louisiana, in an interview with The Center for Biosimilars®.
Education materials also need to be objective, not clearly written by a pharmaceutical partner that is obviously promoting its own product, she said. Also, biosimilar companies need to account for the education needs of all staff when they provide information about their products.
“Several biosimilar companies developed and spent money on physician education, but advanced practice providers [APPs] and the nurses were a little forgotten in that education model,” Oubre said.
Oubre is also a board member of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA).
Nurses Can Play a Unique Role in Biosimilar Acceptance
She explained that nurses play a key role in improving biosimilar acceptance because patients are likely to tell them information they may not disclose to providers. Nurses’ relationship to patients is on a different level than the physician-to-patient relationship, Oubre said.
“Nurses are the clinicians who are with the patient and infusing that drug…. The nurses need to have confidence, too, in what they are giving the patient. They take that relationship very seriously and very personally,” Oubre noted.
She also elaborated on the importance of objective or “nonbranded” education materials in order for education for all stakeholders to be effective and increase biosimilar uptake.
“Most practices like to have ownership of the things that we are giving our patients, because you never want that hint of impropriety by giving an education piece that's designed by a particular pharma partner,” Oubre said.
Last year, the FDA released a suite of resources designed to educate patients about biosimilars. The resources explained that biosimilars can be expected to have the same benefits and risks as originator brands, and that they may provide more treatment options, increase competition in the marketplace, and allow for lower costs.
What Determines Biosimilar Prescribing Patterns
Decisions about biosimilar prescriptions can be influenced by physician confidence in the manufacturer, out-of-pocket costs for the patients, product quality and supply, or insurance and billing department barriers. Also, physicians may be hesitant to accept a biosimilar if only short-term clinical data are available to support its use.
“I think that's where the hesitancy is with some clinicians—that ‘what if?’” Oubre said. “If biosimilars can stay the course, not ruin average sales price, and continue the innovation, I think every year that goes by, physicians will have higher confidence in biosimilars, because the data will continue to grow.”
Due to a level of trust that is established between patients and physicians, Pontchartrain Cancer Center hasn’t faced much pushback from patients when switching them from a reference product to a biosimilar, she said.
“At the end of the day, patients still respect and honor the medical decision making of their physician,” Oubre said.
Education and Discussion Are Pivotal
Education efforts and discussions need to take place among physicians, nurses, and patients to ensure that the patient is receiving the best possible form of treatment, even if that is costly for the business, Oubre said.
“We need our patients to have confidence that we are providing them with the best care, and we need to maintain their trust. We're generally not going to do something that would damage that relationship.... We're healthcare providers, and we don't exist if we don't respect the patient relationship,” she said.