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Oncology Pharmacists Need More Biosimilar Knowledge


A percentage of oncology pharmacy practitioners report their guidance on biosimilars is influential with clinicians, but many feel their knowledge of biosimilars is deficient in a number of important areas.

Oncology pharmacy practitioners have a craving to know more about key aspects of biosimilars, according to a survey conducted by the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners (ISOPP).

Pharmacy practitioners said they feel particularly knowledge-deficient in the following areas:

  • Evaluating comparative efficacy of a biosimilar to an originator product (74.4%)
  • Managing the switchover to a biosimilar from the original product (74.4%)
  • Understanding medication safety issues in relation to biosimilars use (73.3%)

They said the most common challenges they face in obtaining education on biosimilars include limited financial support (38.4%), heavy workload (31.4%), and inadequate educational resources (27.9%).

One of the Most Comprehensive Surveys

ISOPP described the survey as one of the most comprehensive yet on oncology pharmacy provider knowledge needs for use of biosimilars, with 72% having more than 10 years of experience in the oncology pharmacy field. Most of the respondents practiced oncology pharmacy in Europe (27.9%), North America (17.4%), and Asia (16.3%).

According to the study, 74% of respondents’ institutions used biosimilar products. Of the remainder, 46% said they were undecided about using biosimilars, and 31.8% said biosimilars were unavailable in their country.

Just 27 respondents (46.4%) reported that usage was guided by national policies or guidelines, while the majority stated that biosimilar use was guided by institutional policies (64%) or by the local healthcare team (46.4%).

Respondents whose institutions were in high- and high-middle income countries used biosimilars according to guidance from the FDA (United States), the National Health Service (England), or the European Medicine Agency. In some cases, pharmacy and therapeutics committees made decisions on the use of biosimilars.

In low-middle income and low-income countries, decisions to switch to a biosimilar were generally made independently by a treating oncologist, and there was no standard policy or decision-making process, survey respondents said.

Fifty percent of respondents reported frequent or very frequent use of biosmilars for cancer treatment, and 45.4% rated themselves above average to excellent in their understanding of regulatory approval processes for these agents.

Influencing the Clinician’s Choice of Agents

Just 13% reported they were often or very often able to influence a clinician’s choice on whether to employ a biosimilar, and 35% indicated they were sometimes able to influence a clinician’s choice. “Institutional and regional policies and guidelines, education, and word-of-mouth were frequently utilized by respondents to influence prescribers,” the authors wrote.

According to the survey, 56% of respondents rated themselves good to excellent in their knowledge of preparation and administration of biosimilar products. They said they rely heavily on package inserts, other product information, and Micromedex, an IBM source of medical information.

With regard to other areas of knowledge in need of improvement, respondents identified biosimilar indications, budgetary implications, administration guidelines, and patient education.

ISOPP said it would incorporate the findings into future efforts to educate oncology pharmacy practitioners.

“There is room to improve oncology pharmacists’ understanding of biosimilar products, including the regulatory approval process and the practical aspects of implementation as well as the administration of these products,” study authors concluded.

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