IGBA Panelists Discuss the Global Reputation of Biosimilars, Generics

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Panelists at the annual meeting of the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA) offered insight into the current state of the global biosimilar and generic markets and why government agencies need to leverage these medicines to address challenges in the pharmaceutical space.

At the annual meeting of the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA), panelists from around the world came together to shed light on the current reputation of biosimilar and generic drugs and what needs to be done to further lower-cost medicines in today’s geopolitical climate.

Rose Cameron, partner and head of cultural anthropology at Martin Lindstrom, began the discussion by talking about health care professionals’ mindset when it comes to generic drugs, saying that although generic drugs are common, they are often not viewed in a positive light.

“Even though [generics] are 90% of the medication so that we dole out, the vast majority of people do not have a positive frame of mind. They actually consider the term ‘generics’ to be an agonist…." Cameron commented. "There is a massive debate going into the health care arena right now, this division between care and business that's occurring between the administrators of hospitals and health centers, care professionals, the doctors, the chemists, and the nurses."

She mentioned how the role of pharmacists has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic from being drug dispensers to also testing, administering drugs, and acting as pharmaceutical “influencers.” Furthermore, the health care space is dealing with the surge of doctors from the Baby Boomer generation retiring and the onboarding of new people and policies that focus primarily on the business aspects of health care facilities.

“You have this sense that it's business vs care, not in service of care. A great many of these people have no face on generics….We're not top of mind, and when they do consider us, it's a machine," she said. "There's no emotional connection. So, we said, ‘Okay, if we really want to make a difference, we've got to involve these people on an emotional level—get them to engage with the industry and see that we're human beings.'”

Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a patient advocacy organization, highlighted that patients generally do not know what biosimilars are. However, when they were informed, a vast majority of patient said they would support biosimilar utilization. She advised that educational outreach is critical to get patients on board with generics and biosimilars.

“Our role is to reach out to consumers through our newsletters and social media, echoing messages from credible sources, like [the Association for Accessible Medicines] and FDA on the value of generic drugs, what are biosimilars, why patients need to understand these terms, and how they can save lives and save money,” said Greenberg.

Jordan Berman, vice president of global corporate affairs, business transformation, and strategic planning at Apotex, a Canadian generics manufacturer, mentioned the importance of reaching out to policy makers and how they can improve the global reputation of biosimilars and generics.

“They are the ones that shape the environment where we are currently struggling….I think the emotional connection and mobilizing people to speak on our behalf [are great]," he said. "But ultimately, it has to matter to policymakers because that's really the crux of this.”

Although health care professionals, the media, and policy makers can be great influencers for doctors and pharmacists, Cameron added that other patients are who patients are really gravitating to when learning about therapy options.

“They're not listening [to] or trusting the media. They're not necessarily listening [to] or trusting their doctors. They're trusting other patients. So, if you don't make them have the information that they can strike with, that's where the rubber really meets the road," she said. "And if they are coming in front of their policy makers and saying, ‘Look, this is an issue. That is important,’ [policy makers] are going to give it attention, because at the end of the day, they want to be put back into office, or at least that’s how it is in the United States.”

Steffen Kurzawa, chief communications officer at Sandoz, talked about the industry from the manufacturers perspective, warning that if new policies to encourage fair market competition for generics and biosimilars, that countries like the United States run the risk of companies stopping drug production, leaving less options for patients.

“If something doesn't change in this industry quickly, we'll see more and more drugs vanish—leaving the market," he said. "Companies will say, ‘I can no longer afford to produce and offer these drugs, in the United States of America,' where you have a system where there is...monopolistic competition. There are so many suppliers for so many buyers. This system cannot work the way it's supposed and offer the best for consumers in the end.”

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