Physician Awareness: A Key Challenge for Biosimilars in 2017

Kelly Davio

While more biosimilars gained regulatory approval 2017 and neared their entry into the US marketplace, physician acceptance of these products proved to be a challenge.

While more biosimilars gained regulatory approval in 2017 and neared their entry into the US marketplace, physician acceptance of these products proved to be a challenge.

A survey of community-based US oncologists and hematologists found that:

  • 25% of respondents said that they lacked familiarity with biosimilars
  • 45% stated that their practice partners lacked knowledge of biosimilars
  • 23% said that they had no knowledge of the regulatory process for biosimilars
  • 19% believed the regulatory pathway for biosimilars to be the same as the pathway for other drugs or biologics

The researchers in this study concluded that significant gaps in education pose a barrier to physicians’ acceptance of oncology biosimilars, and 2 posters presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s 2017 meeting in San Diego, California, pointed to similar gaps in US rheumatologists’ knowledge.

In the first, a survey of practicing rheumatologists, approximately 60% of respondents were unlikely to switch from a reference biologic to a biosimilar in patients who were responding well to their current therapy. Additionally, 21% of respondents were extremely likely or likely to switch to a biosimilar if the patient was failing to respond well to the originator.

In the second survey, in which respondents were rheumatologists or rheumatology practice managers, only 51% understood the concept of interchangeability, only 40% believed that biosimilars had equivalent safety and efficacy to their references, and 20% said they would not prescribe a biosimilar.

The results of such surveys led Stacie Phan, MBA, MS, president of the Biosimilars Forum, to write in a contributor article at The Center for Biosimilars® that “Researchers who worked on both surveys concluded that physicians’ lack of knowledge about biosimilars and their ambivalence about prescribing these drugs present a significant barrier for building a robust biosimilars market in the United States. This barrier has implications not only for patients suffering from RA, but also from psoriatic arthritis, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, and various types of cancer—including breast cancer, metastatic colorectal cancer, non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, and glioblastoma.”

Phan called for physicians to educate themselves about these therapies for the good of their patients: “We need a medical community that is fully educated about the benefits of biosimilars so that the promise of these drugs can be fully realized in the United States,” she said.