Enhancing pharmacists’ knowledge of biosimilars can assist in promoting their use and defeat misconceptions and misinformation related to generic drugs and biosimilars.
Study authors recommend that health care stakeholders concentrate on cultivating good understanding among pharmacists to improve medication access.
The study was conducted because pharmacists’ knowledge of the differences in the traits between generic drugs and biosimilars is vital to ensure good practice and minimized pharmaceutical costs. The study authors were trying to analyze community pharmacists’ comprehension and awareness of using and substituting biosimilar and generic medications.
“The unified medical prescription allowed Lebanese pharmacists to substitute drugs taking into account their price and availability. Good knowledge and practice among pharmacists of the differences in the characteristics between generic drugs and biosimilars are crucial since they play a key role in clinical practice,” said the study authors.
Biosimilars require clinical switching evidence to support their interchangeability with biologics.
First, a uniform survey distributed to 75 pharmacists was used to collect data, and a pilot cross-sectional study was conducted over 2 months (August-September 2022) addressing community pharmacists in their work environments. Following survey data collection, a knowledge score was generated by calculating several individual scores of statements about generic drugs and biosimilars.
In general, pharmacists possessed moderate to low knowledge scores, especially with the statements tackling biosimilars. No significance was noted between these scores and their general traits. Most pharmacists decided to substitute generic drugs if the brand wasn’t available, while the doctor’s approval was imperative for biosimilar switching. dMost participants discerned equal effectiveness of generic drugs but similar to a lower one for biosimilars compared to the reference drug. Pharmacists emphasized the need to include generic drugs and biosimilars in the continuing education program and workshops.
Most pharmacists noted that they substituted for generic drugs if the brands weren’t available, or the patients asked for less-costly options. Data were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic and Lebanon’s economic crisis, which could be an explanation.
Despite this, over 50% of the pharmacists agreed to change a biological reference drug to its biosimilars only with the doctor’s approval, connecting either appropriate knowledge to behavior or a potential lack of knowledge to the referral of other health care providers.
“Community pharmacists’ knowledge of the differences between generic drugs and biosimilars should be improved, since it was found to be associated with patients’ acceptance to buy and substitute for generic drugs,” said the study authors.
To promote the use of biosimilars, enhancing pharmacists’ knowledge of biosimilars can help surmount misconceptions and misinformation about generic drugs and biosimilars.
Some limitations of the study were that the sample included more women than men, and participants were mostly young, which might have restricted their knowledge to recent information.
“Further investigation on a bigger sample size is recommended to evaluate the knowledge gaps in assessing the differences between generic drugs and biosimilars,” concluded the study authors.
Awada S, Sayah R, Mansour M, Nabhane C, Hatem G. Assessment of community pharmacists' knowledge of the differences between generic drugs and biosimilars: A pilot cross-sectional study. J Med Access. Published online April 17, 2023. doi:10.1177/27550834231167049