"The pharmacist remains a very important member of the healthcare team that has the ability to explain to the patient the differences between the biologic and the biosimilar. It is the pharmacist–patient relationship that will assist the patient in making the best decisions to obtain the optimal clinical outcome," said Larry D. Wagenknecht, PharmD, FMPA, FAPhA, CEO of the Michigan Pharmacists Association.
Recently, Michigan Governor, Republican Rick Snyder, signed into effect legislation that creates a pathway for the substitution of FDA-designated interchangeable biosimilars for their reference products at the pharmacy level. The Center for Biosimilars® interviewed Larry D. Wagenknecht, PharmD, FMPA, FAPhA, CEO of the Michigan Pharmacists Association on his organization’s stance on the new law.
When asked if his organization supported the bill, Wagenknecht said in an email, “The Michigan Pharmacists Association did end up supporting the legislation after some changes were made to the prescriber notification section of the bill.” He added that the Association wants to ensure that the law does not create any undue barriers in providing patients with access to the best options that will treat their conditions.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved interchangeable biosimilars, nor has any drug maker sought such a designation for a biosimilar product. With respect to the rationale for passing legislation dealing with interchangeable biosimilars now, Wagenknecht said the move was in preparation for the future: “The benefit of passing the bill now [March 2018] is minimal since the opportunity for substitution of a biosimilar really isn’t an option today. However, with the medications in the biosimilar pipeline, there will likely be opportunities in the coming years."
It remains unclear whether legislation passed concerning the substitution of interchangeable biosimilars, which has been passed or considered in numerous other states, such as South Dakota and Wisconsin in the early months of this year, will have any impact on uptake amongst prescribers of biosimilar medicines.
Wagenknecht said, “[The prescribing of biosimilars] is very difficult to predict. Biosimilar medications tend to treat more complicated medical conditions, so having a law on the books is not going to increase the use of biosimilar medications. The economics of healthcare will push for the use of biosimilars once they are available.”
Asked if members of his organization dispense biosimilars now, Wagenknecht said, “Our members do dispense biologics, and since the opportunity of dispensing biosimilars is not prevalent, we really don’t know how patients are going to respond. The pharmacist remains a very important member of the healthcare team that has the ability to explain to the patient the differences between the biologic and the biosimilar. It is the pharmacist—patient relationship that will assist the patient in making the best decisions to obtain the optimal clinical outcome.”