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Panelists Call for Consistent Education, Support to Improve Patient Comfort With Biosimilars

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At the Festival of Biologics USA, panelists stressed the need for patient-centered communication and education to boost comfort with biosimilars, emphasizing consistent support from health care providers despite restrictive payer policies.

Key Takeaways

  1. Consistent Education and Communication: The importance of consistent and clear information for both patients and health care professionals was highlighted. Patients should feel empowered and informed about their treatment options, and health care providers need to be educated to effectively address patient questions and concerns.
  2. Multiple Educational Formats: Patients in both oncology and rheumatology expressed a desire for multiple options to learn about biosimilars, such as videos, webinars, and conversations with their providers. Using various educational formats can help reach different patient preferences and improve overall understanding.
  3. Addressing Payer Policies and Reimbursement Challenges: Stakeholders discussed the challenges posed by payer policies that often favor originator products over biosimilars. These policies can restrict patient access and cost savings. Collaboration between stakeholders and advocacy for patient-centered approaches were suggested to address these barriers and improve biosimilar adoption.

Panelists during a discussion at the Festival of Biologics USA emphasized the importance of patient-centered communication and education strategies to encourage patient comfort with biosimilars across disease states, highlighting lessons learned from patient focus groups.

The speakers called for more consistent information and education for patients and health care professionals to ensure patients feel in control of decisions about their care. The conference took place in San Diego, California, from April 15 to April 17.

Anna Hyde, vice president of advocacy and access at the Arthritis Foundation, and Melody Chang, vice president of pharmacy operations at the American Oncology Network (AON), began the discussion talking about improving patient education and communication strategies regarding biosimilars.

From the oncology perspective, Chang outlined how oncology patients want to understand how biosimilars may impact their treatment in clear and empathetic terms. They also want multiple options to learn, like videos and conversations with their providers. However, knowledge levels about biosimilars are low. The speakers emphasized the need to educate providers so they can effectively address patient questions and concerns. Consistent messaging across the health care system is important to build trust in biosimilars for oncology patients.

While the discussion focused on the oncology space, Hyde noted that some of the takeaways can also apply to rheumatology. Patients with chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis have long-term relationships with their providers and want to learn about any treatment changes directly from them. Education is needed for both patients and providers, as knowledge levels about biosimilars may be low in rheumatology as well. Clear, consistent communication is important to address patient concerns about switching to a biosimilar and to ensure they feel in control of their decisions.

“People who are stable on a medication are very fearful of change, even if you tell them this is clinically the same. It's a biosimilar; it's not route switching completely, you know, molecules or categories of drugs here. [But] there is a fear factor that is very difficult to overcome,” Hyde explained.

patient education | Image credit: Алексей Доненко - stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Алексей Доненко - stock.adobe.com

Like in oncology, Hyde noted that rheumatology patients likely have questions about clinical trials, safety, and effectiveness when transitioning to a biosimilar. Multiple educational formats may need to be used to effectively reach both patients and busy rheumatology providers.

Hyde and Chang discussed some action items for stakeholders that might improve patient comprehension about biosimilars and grant them better access to education materials, such as:

  • Creating flyers and short-form educational videos
  • Hosting webinars or in-person presentations targeted at physicians and nurses on how to address patient concerns about biosimilars
  • Surveying patients to evaluate how their understand of biosimilars shifts over time
  • Conducting focus groups and patient interviews to gather metrics on effective educational methods
  • Encouraging payers and health care providers to refer patients to advocacy organizations for biosimilar information
  • Fostering more discussions with insurance companies about payer policies that restrict use of biosimilars

Both treatment spaces have to reckon with payer policies, such as prior authorization and step therapy measures, that often favor originator products over biosimilars, restricting access and cost savings from reaching patients. Additionally, rebate and reimbursement policies that prioritize originators can provide savings for payers and practices while further exacerbating patient costs. Chang highlighted that reimbursement challenges meant that AON could lose $1000 to $2000 per patient if they were unable to use certain biosimilars.

“Because of [these policies], we actually get into these conversations and physicians and they ended up very frustrated because they want to take care of patients. Instead of using the product [they prefer], they have to either have to use something else or bring in a legal director every time to talk to the patient so they can they get an override, but this is not sustainable,” Chang explained.

The speakers emphasized that if these challenges are addressed through stakeholder cooperation and patient-centered approaches, biosimilars appear poised to grow in their ability to expand options and lower health care costs in the future. But success will depend on prioritizing the patient experience at every step.

Hyde concluded, “It’s really, really important to attack and precipitate some of that behavior change. And we are starting to see things shift around a little bit. But again, how you impact that system change is really tricky and can feel like you're swimming upstream…. We're working on it, but it's a real slow climb.”

Reference

Chang M, Hyde A, Randazzo G. Panel discussion: Patient and other stakeholder education on biosimilars. Presented at: Festival of Biologics USA; April 15-16, 2024; San Diego, CA.

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