NCCN Strives to Boost Uptake of Biosimilars

July 11, 2020
Skylar Jeremias

Wui-Jin Koh, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) laid out the current initiatives that organization has taken to promote the use of biosimilars in oncology settings.

Oncology and supportive-care biosimilars have been successful in clinical trials, however, utilization rates still lack vitality, according to Wui-Jin Koh, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

“There are still many clinicians who I think are not completely comfortable with the use of a biosimilar just because of long-standing practice,” said Koh in an interview with Managed Healthcare Executive®.

Recently, the NCCN announced a collaboration with Pfizer Global Medical Grants to provide funding to promote the use of biosimilars in oncology. The two have solicited proposals for “concepts that develop and validate enduring approaches to improve the safe, effective, and efficient adoption of biosimilars in oncology,” according to the NCCN.

More Real-World Data Are Needed

Koh said more real-world data need to be collected on biosimilars as they enter clinical practice in order for the equivalency to reference products to be precisely evaluated.

However, Koh doesn’t have any doubts about the safety and efficacy of biosimilars. “I accept [biosimilars] to be very similar [to their reference products] or that any non-similarities are not distinguishable,” he said.

Koh mentioned that, in May, NCCN’s steering committee voted unanimously to revise all of its guidelines to indicate that all FDA-approved biosimilars are “appropriate substitutions” for reference products across cancers.

Originally, some NCCN panels issued this guideline for the specialty cancers they addressed. The difference now is it’s across the board, Koh said.

Koh said the NCCN is promoting biosimilar use because it wants “to make sure that patients have access to effective but also efficient and accessible care.”

The NCCN does not have specific policies regarding whether clinicians should let patients be aware that they are being prescribed a biosimilar instead of a reference product. However, Koh did say that the organization does have a general recommendation that clinicians be transparent with patients about what’s being prescribed.

Koh noted that although the NCCN is more focused on clinical activity than costs of care, the organization does recognize that drug costs will affect the cost and sustainability of the oncology care system.

The NCCN will act as an advisor for the grant program and Pfizer will contribute $1.5 million in grant money for distribution to oncology groups and other organizations to further biosimilar study and encourage biosimilar use.

The deadline to apply is September 9. The NCCN’s request for proposals for this program is available at the NCCN’s Oncology Research Program site.