Research From Brazil Highlights the Role of Biosimilars in Reducing Private Healthcare Costs

In a study sponsored by Pfizer and presented on May 22, 2017, at the 22nd Annual International Meeting of The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, researchers from Brazil found that switching from reference products to biosimilars can create substantial cost savings for payers in private healthcare systems.

The researchers developed a 5-year cost minimization analysis model to measure the impact of switching infliximab (Remicade) with its biosimilar in patients undergoing treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the Brazilian private healthcare system. The analysis considered direct medicine costs (which are regulated by the Brazilian Ministry of Health) for the treatment of a cohort of 2 million patients, and drew upon data from the 10 largest private healthcare plans in Brazil.

The model employed a switch rate of 30% in year 1, which increased by 5% annually, to arrive at 50% in year 5. Using this schedule, and employing a population growth-rate adjustment of 0.09% after year 1, the researchers found that switching RA patients to the infliximab biosimilar generated a cost savings of 15.6 million to 26.2 million Brazilian reais (an amount equivalent to 4.81 million to 8.08 million US dollars). That savings represents up to a 20.8% reduction of overall acquisition costs. When considering a reduced 5-year switch rate of only 40%, savings on acquisition costs were still strong at up to 13.78%.

The researchers concluded that switching from reference products like infliximab to biosimilar products can provide payers with substantial cost-savings opportunities. Such savings, the researchers suggest, are not only positive news for payers seeking to reduce their expenditures, but also for patients; lower prices have the potential to spur greater patient access to biological agents, and may improve overall treatment availability.