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Review: Nurses Can Play Key Role in Improving Biosimilar Use


A review laid out ways for nurses to address patients’ questions on biosimilars in order to help them take on the role of improving utilization rates in cancer treatment.

As the heath care providers who patients interact with the most, nurses will need to be a main education provider on biosimilars in order to increase utilization, according to authors of a review.

The paper, which focused mostly on oncology biosimilars, explained how to address questions from patients regarding what biosimilars are, their approval processes, safety and immunogenicity, and health and economic benefits.

“With a thorough understanding of biosimilars, including their efficacy and safety profiles, nurses can help alleviate patient concerns and maximize potential public health benefits,” the authors wrote.

Nurses Can Educate

In addition to what nurses are already responsible for, such as administering treatments and patient monitoring, they spend the most of their time with patients and caregivers.

“Therefore, they may frequently field patient questions about their medications and thus have a unique opportunity to provide necessary education. It is important that nurses understand what biosimilar medications are and how they are regulated to accurately communicate their efficacy, safety, and potential benefits to patients,” the authors wrote.

The review offered strategies to help explain what biosimilars are and how they are made. It compared biosimilars with generic small-molecule drugs and presented potential savings benefits and discounts for biosimilars.

Explaining the development and approval processes may be beneficial as well to help patients understand the vigorous testing that biosimilars must go through and the strict regulations that the European Medicines Agency and FDA require to ensure comparable safety and efficacy to the reference product.

The authors also suggested that nurses explain how in the manufacturing of biologics, one batch varies minutely from another, and this is as true for reference products as for biosimilars, as cells can behave differently in response to small environmental variations. In addition, nurses should explain that risks of a patient developing an immune response to the drug exist for both reference biologics and biosimilars. The authors said postmarketing studies or additional trials may address these concerns.

Building Confidence in Biosimilars

“Studies such as these can increase healthcare provider and patient confidence in the safety of biosimilars and, as biosimilars are introduced to the market, could be critical in their sustainability and impact on patients and healthcare systems,” the authors said.

Authors also suggested that nurses should cite postmarketing studies and policy changes in individual countries, such as France and Norway.

Another helpful strategy, especially for American nurses, is mentioning the economic success and accumulated evidence from the European Union, which has a decade-long head start on biosimilar development compared with the United States.

“As the number of biosimilars for oncology indications increases, encouraging the adoption of biosimilar therapies through patient education is important to maximize their potential economic and health benefits,” the authors wrote.

The authors discussed the current number of oncology biosimilars for monoclonal antibodies and for mitigating the effects of febrile neutropenia. These biosimilars are increasingly available in the United States and the European Union, and use has grown over time.

“In the coming years, nurses will continue to take on increasingly active roles in research, clinical decision-making and clinical leadership.…As both the biosimilar and advanced nursing fields expand in the next 5 to 10 years, the impact of nurses on the uptake of biosimilar medicines may be an important area of future research,” the authors wrote.

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