Kashyap B. Patel, MD, has worn many hats in the struggle to broaden biosimilar access. He is an independent oncology practitioner, a member of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), and a representative of International Oncology Network (ION) Solutions, a large drug purchasing organization. Bringing biosimilars to a broader population of patients has involved negotiations with payers, persistence on Capitol Hill, and education, he explains in an interview.
Biosimilars appear to be the only logistical solution to the rising cost of medicines, and 2 organizations in particular, the International Oncology Network (ION) Solutions and the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), have worked hard independently and on Capitol Hill to advance biosimilar-favorable legislation, according to Kashyap B. Patel, MD, a member of The Center for Biosimilars’ Advisory Board who spoke about biosimilar uptake in a recent interview.
“They both have put their full force behind supporting biosimilars,” Patel said of both organizations, in which he has been a participating member.
Patel, of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates, in Lancaster, South Carolina, said his practice is a participant in the value-base-care—centered Oncology Care Model and has chosen to adopt new biosimilars immediately after they’re approved. “We’ve assimilated them very quickly into our practice. I see biosimilars as one of the only lifetime opportunities of reducing the cost of care,” he said.
He described the assimilation of these products in his practice as substantial, although he said that it has not been easy to do this, given that payers have not uniformly opened the door to coverage of these agents.
ION is a large purchasing cooperative that has formed a biosimilars committee, which provides education for providers, payers, and pharmacists. Patel participated in the formation of that committee, but said it was challenging to teach ION members about the distinction between generics and biosimilars.
An important issue in biosimilar access is the decision process that goes into the choice of biosimilars to offer participants in a care plan. In the case of infliximab and trastuzumab, there are multiple biosimilars on the market. “ION tends to be agnostic of the manufacturer,” Patel said about the purchasing organization’s choice of biosimilars. “I think they want to work with all the manufacturers who are willing. And there’s going to be regional variation based on the payer coverage.”
ION as an intermediary works to establish manufacturer relationships and leaves it up to the physicians to decide which of the available biosimilars to use. However, “ION has chosen to go with supporting biosimilars as a part of a social responsibility,” Patel said.
COA is an organization of community oncology practices that, while not acting as a contracting representative for biosimilars and other drugs, works to promote the availability of biosimilars, Patel said. “Our role at COA is just to make sure that we bring every toolkit for our teams’ colleagues and work with the payers to help them understand the relevance of the biosimilars in addressing [Medicare] Part B drug price [issues]. We want to do everything possible we can to reduce the drug price in conjunction with the government, Senate, Congress, and payers.”