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Looking Back, UK Patients Unhappy With Adalimumab Biosimilar Switch


The UK results show how challenging switching to a biosimilar can be, according to patient groups.

What do UK patients think about the process and communication used to switch to adalimumab biosimilars by the National Health Service (NHS) and the local home care trusts?

According to a study presented at the European Hematology Association (EHA)’s 25th Annual Congress, EHA25 Virtual, not very much.

Planning for the switch came in 2018, even before the results of the tender for adalimumab (reference product Humira) had taken place. The United Kingdom has made no secret of its hopes of significant cost savings on a switch to biosimilar adalimumab, aspiring to save £300 million (approximately US $386 million) of its £400 million (approximately US $514 million) annual spending on adalimumab as a result of using biosimilars.

In the UK setting, self-administered biologics are delivered to patients in their homes by commercial companies that are paid for by pooled funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Once a prescription is initiated by a hospital prescriber, nurses deliver the products and teach patients how to inject their therapy at home.

Nearly 2 years in, researchers sought patient feedback on the switch process with the intent of reporting findings to NHS England. In addition, they sought to give organizations representing rheumatology, dermatology, and gastroenterology patients information to develop any future resources to help improve shared decision making (SDM).

These organizations had worked with National Health Service (NHS) to produce the materials for disseminating information to prescribers and patients, and they now wanted to know how the process was implemented and if SDM was practiced.

A working group of 4 organizations created an online survey asking questions about:

  • How the individual was communicated with regarding their treatment being switched to a biosimilar
  • Was there any choice or perceived input into the decision making process
  • How queries or issues were handled
  • Overall satisfaction on how the individual felt their personal preferences/needs were met

The results demonstrate how challenging the switch process turned out to be.

The investigators gathered a total of 899 useable responses, with patients identifying as 52% rheumatology, 42% gastroenterology, and 5% dermatology patients; the remaining 1% were “more complex specialties,” the researchers said.

More than half of patients were not asked for their consent before their treatment was switched to a biosimilar adalimumab, while 40% said they gave consent. A minority (7%) couldn’t remember or were unsure if consent was given.

Three-fourths were not at all satisfied or not satisfied with the ability to decline being switched. Just 12% felt that they had been given an option to refuse the switch.

SDM “needs to be put into action not just words,” concluded the authors, who represented the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, 1 of the 4 organizations that created the survey. The other organizations were the National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society UK; Crohns’ & Colitis UK; and the Psorarsis Association, UK.

They said they will continue to work with NHS and other stakeholders to make SDM “a reality not just rhetoric.”

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